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zenslacker #3

1.    The world is mad. When you engage with the world you often have to go a little mad to get things done. Or so it seems. Another way is simply to wait for the right moment. If you can’t, because you’re in a rush, then you’re not Zenslacking. There is always a right moment. If you wait patiently for it you won’t miss it. And even if you do- so what?

2.    All food is good. Stop eating for ten or twelve hours and then see what food is all about. Stop drinking bottled water for ten hours and go for a run. Then drink that chlorinated stuff direct from the tap. Doesn't it taste beautiful now? Lifegiving?

3.    You're driving along the highway with some buddies drinking beer and in a moment of beer-fueled over enthusiasm hurl an empty can onto the littered hard shoulder. Rather than feel guilty look at it another way: beer cans are not the problem- roads are.

4.    Brainstorming produces lots of ideas but rarely any good ideas- mostly it just produces a storm of confusion. Or else you get ideas as a kind of insurance against being bereft of ideas. These ideas are actually symbolic ideas. But real ideas are there to become real. They have a reality already integral within them. These ideas just come from nowhere because they are looking for you. If you do nothing the solution will come looking for you.

5.    Often the best way to start doing nothing is to do something in a consciously excessive way. Excessively write notes until you are sick of that and then you are doing nothing in the right way. No strain anymore.



walking in boots

I have many pairs of boots. None of them fit me quite right. I tell myself my feet are still growing. This can’t be true- I am over 40 years old. I have one pair of Merrill walking shoes that really do seem to fit me but the other day they gave me blisters. Plus they are not boots and for long distances I must have boots! I am a boot man, always have been. In my search for the perfect boot I have been very lax. For example I own numerous pairs of Timberland type boots – none of which really fit me very well. I wouldn’t put up with a crap book or a car that wasn’t right so how come I am so cavalier about boots? Maybe there is some kind of masochism at work, deep down I actually like getting sore feet. Or, perhaps, I sense at some almost unconscious level that really I should be walking barefoot. In a move this way I have started desert walking in sandals. They’re great- for a day or three- but longer than that and the skin starts getting rubbed raw. Fact is, I spend too long in socks and shoes not walking very far at all. My feet are too soft. Hmm, this is a familiar thought too. Maybe I should have been a monkey. On one 700km hike I had blisters on the very last day, and even then I was hoping I had finally cracked the problem…but look at it positively: I still managed to finish the walk. And the memory of all that limping pain just seems unreal, disregardable. 



look for an abundant world

The Abundant World v. the Limited World is something I think about from time to time.

There are an infinite number of ways you can divide up the people of the world, and almost as many ways of dividing up their point of view. But a worthwhile way is to look at the difference in view between believers in an abundant world and believers in a limited world.

Abundant world viewers believe there is an infinite supply of stuff to go round- what shortages we have will tend to sort themselves out.

Limited world viewers see everything in short supply- so much so that if one person gets ahead, even in a completely different field, the limited world viewer sees that as a setback, one less opportunity for him, or her.

Clearly the abundant world view can be attacked easily. There very definitely was a shortage of wood in the 16th century that was only overcome when coal began to be mined in Europe extensively. Wood was limited not infinite in supply. But this is a sneaky kind of attack on abundantism, if one can call it that, because the abundantist will argue- as wood ran out coal miraculously appeared. Similarly it looks as if the rising price of oil, spurred on by diminishing easy availability of oil will spur on development of other energy sources such as solar and wind power as well as encourage greater energy efficiency.

The key to the abundant position is taking as wide and flexible a world view as possible.

If you want to be a limited viewer just take a short term inflexible position.

One example- traffic chokes many of our major cities. Sitting for one or two hours a day grinding along in low gear is not uncommon now whereas it was perhaps forty years ago. This is especially true for the growing cities of the developing world- Calcutta, Cairo, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. From a limited perspective freedom to travel is getting limited. But take a wider view. Over the last forty years life has speeded up immeasurably- instant information via the net, cheap air travel to everywhere, mobile phones and satellite technology allowing everyday communication across continents. People have likewise grown impatient and used to this speed- so being forced to chill out in a traffic jam is a corrective. It also allows you time to listen to taped books, music, and if you are fortunate enough to be driven by another- to read and use the internet. Things balance out, feedback goes from the material- lack of space on the roads- to the psychological- building patience and tolerance.

In the abundant world there is only creativity not competition. One door shuts and another opens- usually to a better opportunity. One thing leads to another- again, often a bigger and better opportunity. You only have to do the work of reaching out and firmly taking hold of that opportunity.

It is perfectly possible to lifeshift without having an abundant world viewpoint, but it’s harder. Mainly because it shuts down the creative faculty.

In a totally creative frame of mind any problem is soluble- now this cannot be true- but the frame of mind feels it to be so. And with this surge of optimism usually comes a solution. The abundant world view says- there is a solution out there, there is no shortage of whatever you seek.

The limited worldview automatically switches emphasis from creative responses to a problem to taking what exists from someone else.

There is a kind of continuum from:

Total creativity->copying->theft

One can invent the hula hoop and make millions. Or copy the hula hoop and try and cash in on countries that haven’t seen it yet. Or use lawyers to ban hula hoops and then set up your own factory as the one selling the only legal hoops. Or steal hula hoops by force and sell them and keep the money.

All businesses are somewhere on this spectrum. Those who believe in an abundant world will be closer to the creative end than the theft end.

In the end I can only say it is far from easy to shift one’s world view- I know- for years I had the view the world was limited, there wasn’t enough to go round and anyman who got ahead was somehow, obscurely depriving me and my family of our rightful needs.

Crazy and paranoid as that sounds it is borne out by many psychological tests. From a wide sample people preferred that everyone receive the same salary increase rather than they get a higher one and a few others get an even higher one that that. Inflation was to be discounted. So people would rather be equally worse off than better off with a few even better off than them.

Give not get- a psychological reason for adopting this posture

In an abundant world it’s easier to adopt a giving rather than getting attitude. Now though this is socially very commendable that isn’t the reason for adopting it. A giving attitude shifts your mindset into command of your situation. If you give away 2,3 or 10% of you income to others then you are stating IN ACTIONS NOT WORDS I am in control of my financial situation, and being in control of your finances is in most cases a large part of being in comfortable with your life.

How to develop and abundant world mentality.

First you need to see it’s a possibility. Do this by trying to identify, without judgement, feedback loops at work in the world. Try to see a feedback loop in the widest sense. For example, extinction. Several species become extinct each year and this rate may be increasing. We don’t know. What we do know is that only one tenth of all species have actually been discovered. Granted these are mainly insects and fish- but that is an incredible number given the common viewpoint ‘that science knows everything about the natural world already’. Even if some species go extinct they will never ever match the huge number waiting out there to be discovered. Read Nobel prize winner E.O.Wilson's Diversity of Life for more on this.

You have to see the ultility of having an abundant worldview.

You have to see that you are being more not less realistic by being abundantly minded.

You can aid this by gravitating towards areas that superficially seem more abundant than others- for example there is no foreseeable end to the number and variety of computer programs that could be written and sold. Once you have an abundant mindset you can see it everywhere. Steve, my friend who went from being a real estate guy to a film maker used to repeat his grandfather’s saying which was you can make money from anything- and his granddad proved it by turning waste stone material into a desirable gravel for house drives in Phoenix Arizona.

One can acquire the mentality of abundance by studying the way entrepreneurs use certain ‘moves’ to optimise money making potential. Richard Branson famously ran a student magazine as a very young man. In one advertisement he offered cheap records he obtained from abroad. There was a huge response to this advertisement. He shut the magazine and started a record store- Virgin. In other words he moved towards the abundancy generating opportunities. Moving towards greater abundancy increases the ability to see abundancy.

Neuroscientists always say about the brain- what fires together wires together- by behaving as if the world is abundant- providing generous dinners for others, always paying the bill, not seeking self-benefits but providing help for others you actually start rewiring your brain into a greater awareness of abundancy.

 Buckminster Fuller suffered many setbacks as a young inventor. Finally in desperation he reviewed his whole life and saw that the more selflessly he acted the more successful he was. He made a rule that he should seek to increase his responsibility to cover as many as possible, not just himself. His incredible success in later life can be dated from the change in thinking just of himself to focusing on benefiting as many as possible. He created a link in his brain to abundance when he saw there was no shortage of people out there he could be responsible for- and by his own observation that meant there could be no shortage of success. Which is abundant thinking.

 Think of the Norwegian coastline- a famous example from fractal geometry- it is possible to infinitely increase the Norwegian coastline on a map by adding fjords to fjords to fjords. The basic shape stays the same but the line around the coast just gets longer and longer. Abundant thinking is like that- by moving closer or further away from your subject you can generate infinite possibilities.



a cure for horsefly bites

Horseflies, or cleggs, as they call them up north are right bastards. Being bitten once is an indignity, to be swarmed, as often happens, can result in bumps aplenty and in my case an allergic reaction. I was once bitten by a clegg in Scotland and my arm ballooned like something inflatable. The pus seeped for days. In the Pyrenees, walking the GR10 I was mobbed for what seemed like weeks by the nasty creatures. Multiple bites inflicted on bare legs started to get infected and finally I was bitten on the tongue- gasping for air on a steep ascent one flew in and got me. I had visions of my palate swelling and blocking all airways, my tongue expanding like the swollen licker of a hanged man- but no- nothing happened. Nothing. Saliva, as reported in 2008 in New Scientist, is a great natural anti-biotic. After this, as soon as I got bitten I now gobbed a big load of saliva onto the bite site (and killed the clegg if I could) and this stopped all further swelling. As long as I got the spit on the bite within 30 seconds I was fine. Not even a pimple. Later I found this works with all insect bites and is a great first treatment for any outdoor cut. Suck on it!

In the summer this post gets a lot of hits- presumably by people who have just been bitten. If that has happened, and you have an allergic reaction you may get a lot of swelling and it's too late to apply the 30 second-suck treatment. However you can keep rubbing saliva on the bite to stop it getting infected. You'll have redness, maybe some irritation and swelling but you'll be fine. If you do get an infection with painful lymph glands and a huge swelling go to the doctor for some antibiotics in the worst case. Moderate swelling will go down after a few days.


where is home for you?

I was walking from the stationers today clutching my new ream of A4 paper and feeling pretty happy when all of a sudden I thought 'it doesn't matter that this place Cairo doesn't seem like 'home'. This is the place where you are writing a novel. And it's a good place to write that novel. And I'm happy here.'

But where is this place home? My parents had a great house in the Oxfordshire countryside which they bought when I was 18 and sold when I was 32. I didn't even spend my childhood there and I never lived at home except during the holidays, but that place always feels like home to me. It was an old house with a good feeling about it, a welcoming cosy feeling. 

Kipling claimed 'to leave home is to be on the road forever.' My Aunt told me something similar- 'when you leave that place you think of as home you never get it back again.' But what about those people who never leave- do they know what they have?

My friend Paul Gordon Chandler told me he thinks of Cairo as home now he has decided to stay here for the foreseeable future. Is home a decision then?

Of course it's many things- people mainly I imagine- but for me it is what you do that is important. Home is where you do what you most want to do- and you make the best of it.


random thoughts on tickling

Intellectuals find the world a puzzling place because they think that all communication is effected through words. They are always missing about 60%. Despite the obvious superficiality of the hollywood hug, touch is a much underrated form of communication. Robert Graves used to like tickling people: recalcitrant smart alecs in their early 20s, old buffers standing on ceremony, friends who owed him money. Tickle someone today!


zenslacker #2

1. There is a way to be in a rush. If you sit in a coffee shop doing nothing you can observe the kind of rush other people are in when they pay their bill or buy things from the counter. What kind of rush are you in?

2. Trying to go with the flow sometimes works, but often doesn’t. To go with the flow you should try to resist it to the maximum. This may even make you laugh- when it does you’ll find it’s easy to go with the flow

3. When you try to chill out it’s more trying than chilling. You’ll find that things that are unexpected will still irritate you and then depress you because you realize your cool is skin deep. The trick is to change your perspective not your mood. Going for a long walk often helps. So does frequent travel to interesting places, if you can manage it. But really the only way to learn how to alter your perspective is to practise seeing things from as many different points of view as you can imagine. List the benefits of global warming. Examine the flaws in Mother Teresa’s character. Watch how your mood follows your perspective.

4. Most of us, at various stages in our lives, become involved with trying to achieve success at something we neither enjoy nor really value. We feel that without this ‘success’ we are nothing, ‘a failure’ in the eyes of the world. It’s a feeling that can engulf you for years, and then you emerge and wonder what all the fuss was about. The Zenslacker way out of feeling burdened by the need to be a success (and the momentary pomposity that comes with momentary success in the eyes of others) is to observe it, note it, and then do something you really enjoy. Maybe a jigsaw. Another technique is to just do nothing (really nothing, just keep sitting where you are without even moving) until the feeling passes, or the feeling's importance. It usually does, but if it doesn't: observe it, note it and go and find that jigsaw. Lego is good too.

5. If people did less there would be less. Of everything.