This site runs on small donations- thanks!
Full list of articles

engineers and buzzards

It's a bit silly to try and divide the world into two kinds of people- but here goes.

Everyone has a bit of the engineer in them and a bit of the buzzard. Sometimes you get pure buzzard and pure engineer, but most people are a mix. The engineer part achieves a flow state (a psychological state where some kind of challenge is fully matched by ones skills to meet it, leaving one entranced and fully 'in the moment') by finding a problem, a real problem with a physical dimension, a demonstrable and obvious problem- and using all his skills- solving it. Solving the problem may require some, even a great deal of, imagination but imgaination is a tool, a means, not an end.

A buzzard achieves a flow state by getting a buzz from ideas and imagination. 'What if?' the buzzard thinks and he's away. Buzzards can leap over buildings and any obstacles. Buzzards can defy time and aging, they can imagine living for a 1000 years and being known by every person on the planet. Sometimes a crazy idea by a buzzard actually solves a problem that an engineer has framed. The buzzard gets sudden fame.

When an engineer gets a bit of buzzard in him he tries to solve every single thing that is framed as a 'problem' in the world using only the tools he knows. He comes a cropper.

When a buzzard gets a bit of engineer in them they let their minds soar and imagine problems and solutions that do not and could never exist.

Both buzzards and engineers suffer a common delusion- they believe all problems can be solved.

The secret is- don't let them mix. Use the buzzard to escape the earthbound trap and see things differently. Use the engineer to solve real and demonstrable problems. Asking whether something is really a problem, whether it makes sense to frame it thus as a problem, whether the real problem might lie elsewhere, whether, having framed the problem, it might be insoluble all these are things that you need to think about before you let the buzzard or the engineer loose.


tomorrow's thoughts

When tomorrow comes, think tomorrow's thoughts.



The sixth law of adventure

The Sixth Law: set out without knowing where you will sleep that night.

In keeping with the somewhat carefree nature of my choice of seven laws of adventure- the sixth is the most important law of all and a direct steal from Reinhold Messner who considered, after a lifetime of arguably unparalled adventure that it took him thirty years to realise the essence of adventure was exchanging the familiar hearth for a sleeping place that was unknown at the day's start. This is why hitching can be the ultimate adventure and an ascent of Everest not be. On Everest every camp site- if things go well- is preprogrammed. With a hitching trip - nothing is programmed. On well organised expeditions the adventure starts when there is a cock-up or accident. A good expedition is fun alright but it may lack...adventure.

To set off, knapsack on back, no money in the pocket and no knowledge of where you will kip that night- but a goal of sorts in mind- now that is an adventure!

Of course, the remoter the spot, the more 'unknown' the sleeping site will be. I have found that there is nothing quite like being super remote from the rest of humanity. Sleeping rough on the edge of civilisation has its own feral charm and edginess, but choosing a campsite in a place where the next human is 200km away, that is special indeed.



There is much misinformation about what a koan is for- it is never meant to be 'solved'. It is designed to build awareness of incongruity, of a disconnect, of living with contradiction. They were originally used in a quick fire fashion and quickly forgotten or passed on from or handed around in a neutral fashion- otherwise obsession would develop. The only remnant of this is the vague knowledge that a lot of laughing is usually involved- this is the remains of what was used to neutralise obsession. The teacher never required a response from the student- the whole point was for the student to become of aware of ALL his responses.



People clamour for exercises. It's no good in a martial art telling folk it's all about stance- they want exercises. So they get them. Exercises exist to build awareness. The exerise may look like something else- an attack, a punch, a throw- and it may 'work'- but it exists to build awareness- so that you may become your own teacher. A teacher is someone who helps build awareness. They direct you to activities that shift you up the neural ladder- by this I mean you become aware of greater subtleties, broader connections. When you become your own teacher- you already are- this is more about a shift in emphasis, in dependency, you actively seek out that which increases awareness. You might even invent your own exercises.

In many mystical traditions they also have exercises. These have several functions including providing a teaching matrix in a culture which outlaws the verbal expression of certain ideas. But if people get verbal about exercises they miss the chance it offers- to build awareness. You can also easily become obsessed by certain exercises- yoga offers plenty of examples of that. Because the body and mind are so interlinked physical exercises are a convenient way of shifting one's attention. Becoming aware of this, of both the body and the mind and the ability to shift attention, is the important thing- not the mental 'experience' of calm or feeling good. Talk of centres is a way of shifting attention and building awareness. Centres tend to coincide with places with the most nerve endings - making the acquisition of subtler circuitry easier- but you could have a centre in your big toe if you wanted.


thick and thin

Thick skinned people are good at business. They don't take no for an answer and they keep soldiering on. Little things don't bother them or throw them off course. They are tough, and lacking imagination, find it easy to accept the importance of courage. Thin skinned people are more sensitive- to everything. Which is why they have the best ideas, see things coming sooner than anyone else, and are much more creative all round. But being thin sknned they get easily spooked and thrown off course. Thick skinned people cannot see any reason to grow a thinner skin- they lack the sensitivity to know that it has many advantages in improving awareness. Thin skinned people can't bear the idea of growing a thicker skin. They see it as becoming less human. In fact both operations are possible. Many successful enterprises are the result of a happy mix of thick and thin skinned people- both accepting the other's qualities- as long as everyone is prospering. There's a saying- 'through thick and thin'- which could be said to sum up this kind of partnership. Of course there are natural proclivities which get exaggerated by living, but most people can alter the thickness of their skin by shifting where they chose to put their attention. The hard part is to decide to start choosing.


just keep typing

The great literary agent Bruce Hunter had one piece of advice to struggling authors; Just Keep Typing.

It's what you do if you're a writer. If you find you can't, get a better typer, a new keyboard, a new computer- whatever it takes to get you back in the slot- typing.

Stop complaining: you chose it. You could have been a fireman, a doctor, an artist a composer- but you had to chose being a writer didn't you?

So shut up and just keep typing.