Tuesday, 26 July 2011

What (else) I learned on my Holidays

In my previous blog, I shared some insights gained on my holiday with @MandyRG in Northumberland.  I usually make a point whilst on holidays of distancing myself from the normal daily news ‘noise’, but two almost coincidental events at the end of that week were unavoidable - the world was horrified to learn of the killings in Norway and shocked at the untimely death of singer Amy Winehouse.  So on Saturday evening, I logged into Twitter.

In my timeline, I read lot of tweets and comment along the lines of “RIP Amy Winehouse” and what a sad waste of a young talent.  Several people used the words ‘tragic’ and ‘tragedy’.  I took a different view and kinda got on my high horse; I re-tweeted and responded to one particular tweet with the comment “A Tragedy? Really? Tell that to the Norwegians”.  I got an instant and angry response suggesting that I should get a grip and that I had no more right to pronounce on the scale of tragedy than the author had.  This then stimulated a short tweetstorm amongst half a dozen of my followers around whether or not comparisons were valid (differing views) and I expressed the opinion that we tend to overuse the words ‘tragic’ and ‘tragedy’ nowadays, and that there was a big difference between Amy W’s sad death and the horror of the mass shooting of teenagers. However, having been ‘bitten back’, I was careful to make my comments general and not aimed at, nor in response to, anyone else’s specific tweets.

For an hour or so thereafter, I sat back and monitored my timeline.  I picked up a recurring theme in the tweets and retweets, that people generally thought it was NOT OK to compare the two situations and moreover, that there was a real affection for and sadness at the loss of Amy W, which was different to the genuine distress felt over the Norwegian atrocities.  What surprised me was the depth and passion of some of those feelings and the implications that if one thought otherwise, as one tweet put it, “you are idiots!”  I began to feel a little beleaguered and paranoid but, as it was the last night of our holiday, thought it wisest to keep my counsel and step back.

The next day we traveled back to Brighton and during the 7 hour car journey, I mulled over what had occurred the evening before.  I reflected on my own opinion about the difference of the two ‘news’ events and definitions of ‘tragedy’; I reflected on the different views expressed by others within and outwith my immediate Personal Learning Network, some more mature and measured than others; I reflected on how I had been exposed to, and felt impelled to comment on, events and views outside of my usual Twitter L&D/SoMe themes, really for the first time; and finally, I reflected on how valuable Twitter and my PLN had been in making me  think more deeply about these things.  I was concerned about how I had ‘shown up’ and whether or not I had upset and/or alienated any of my followers, but equally, whether any of them harboured similar doubts or concerns themselves.

So yesterday, I tweeted to everyone who had been involved in Saturday evening’s conversations and thanked them for making me think more deeply about these things.  Within a very short space of time, I heard back from several of those same people, acknowledging the pitfalls of ‘firing from the hip’ but also recognizing the value of sharing thoughts and opinions in Twitter, and reflecting more deeply thereon. I will be mindful of these themes in the future.

I feel that I now have a more personal relationship with those same people, beyond the immediate 140 character ‘sound bite’ that Twitter can sometimes become;  I hope I have shown up as authentic and that our future dialogue will continue to enrich and add value to my and their ongoing professional and personal development. I hope that they feel the same.

I’d be really interested to know what thoughts and feelings last week’s events and social media commentaries brought up for you.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Things Are Looking Up!

A month since my last blog and here I am on holiday with Mrs G (@MandyRG) in the previously unexplored (by us) county of Northumberland - and we are loving it!  In previous years we have visited and walked in the Lake District, the Peak District, Devon, Cornwall and Wales and I traveled extensively in Scotland when I was much younger.  We live in a beautiful country and I heartily commend it to you if you have not yet taken the time to explore our own land.

Bamburgh Castle
This week, we have visited and walked coastline, town walls, castles and gardens.  And in our explorations, I have found myself looking upwards a lot of the time; at spectacular cloud formations, at the tops of trees and hills, at castle ramparts and frequently the ceilings of those same buildings. In the interiors of two of those castles, my eyes and attention have been drawn by the beautiful carvings and embellishments created over years by past master craftsmen, and often cleaned and restored more recently by today's generation of similarly talented and passionate artisans.  One of the castle guides today commented how infrequently people look up in their rush to tramp through the state rooms and get to the gift shop, coffee shop or toilets, and what artistry and beauty they miss as a result. 

I was reminded of some work I did many years ago when I was a Drama Student in Edinburgh.  I developed and led my classmates through a discovery and exploration of their 'personal space'.   I asked them to describe what they could see, how much space they had around them, above them, below them. I asked them to try to define that space, to claim it, to feel their way into, and to fill it in some way.  The results were fascinating; people drew circles on the floor, or created barriers with clothing or furniture, someone stood on a table and declared ownership of the space from ceiling to floor, someone else took to the top of the cupboards, someone shouted or sang loudly whenever anyone else came near his self-defined space, whilst others collaborated and defined a shared – and therefore much larger – space.

I was especially taken with those who looked upwards, who recognized that we earthbound creatures do not always realise the opportunity to explore and expand beyond what we can see and do at eye-level.  In exploring Northumberland, I have been reminded again of the value of looking upwards as much as possible.
So here’s my thought for the day – as we push on with the day job, focusing on the task in hand, getting the job done, we should all take some time emotionally and intellectually to pause and look up.  We might see something beautiful – either created by nature or by someone else – which might help us to think about and develop other ways of completing that task and maybe inspire others to lift their eyes upwards occasionally.