You can’t hurry a loaf of bread. You have to wait for it to prove and rise. – Mel Giedroyc
I was going to write about something else but then I stopped – there’s no need to hurry this thing and, given it’s the first day of a new year, the first day of a new decade is there a better day to stop and think and just check whether we’re doing the right things?
How has the last decade been for you? For me, I think it might end up being the lost decade. The one where I moved from paper and pen to digital and online and, in the process, have more “stuff” than ever and less understanding of it than ever.
For example, we have pictures in their tens of thousands, sat somewhere in the cloud. But most of our prints are a decade old. We’re running out of email space on the online services we moved to at the start of the decade and have no idea what’s important and what isn’t. But what is important is a twenty-plus year old stash of letters that I’ve carried around with me all that time. Not that I ever look at them, but it’s nice to know they’re there.
We have access to more information but is it helping us make better decisions, live better lives? On the one hand we are torn between complex, equally compelling arguments and need the time to make nuanced decisions but what we also see is raw tribalism, populism and xenophobia driving action. Alongside a tidal wave of sharing and teaching is a sewage flood of criticism and comment.
One of the things we ought to see is that the same thing that gives rise to one is also necessary for the other. The Internet gives us the ability to share and the ability to tear down. It’s a bipolar construct, the same element facilitating both great good and great evil. The Internet and technology are not problems – they just are and what we have to do is figure out our relationship with them and with everything else out there.
I think when one tries to do something fast we lose sight of why we’re doing it. We think things “should” be done in a certain way. When writing, for example, I have assumed things like you should write in single sentences, not paragraphs online, and longer posts are better than short ones. But why would that be the case? Is it because it is something that’s clearer for you as a reader? Or is it because you’re trying to appeal to Google, which is the route to you as a reader? Surely the fewer the words you need to explore something the better? Why use ten words when two will do? Why write in some kind of artificially dynamic style when plain prose is enough?
The thing about the years is that they pass a day at a time whether you like it or not. This year, I think, is one for unplugging, one for noticing and one for slowing down.
A year for clarifying practices, bringing together the paper practices that I used the decade before last with the digital tools of the last one – to create foundations for the next decade.
From 2000 to 2010 I used to say that if it wasn’t in writing it didn’t exist. From 2010 I shifted to the view that if it wasn’t online, it didn’t exist.
In this third decade my view is moving towards realizing the obvious. It exists if it is in the world.
This comes together in a few ideas that I’ll explore again later. One is that the Purpose Of a System Is What It Does (POSIWID). The world is as we find it and the purpose of it is what it does. The second is that the best thing we can hope to do is organize the way in which we approach and learn about the world and, in doing so, leave things better than we found them. And what this blog is doing is trying to capture what I’m learning in a way that’s useful for me and, hopefully, for you.
So that’s the plan then… to begin another decade of learning because the world is endlessly fascinating and what’s more interesting than exploring the art of living well?