January 29, 2008
a train in the distance
Its grand to welcome Russell to the Round Table - with their wonderful 'Brief Encounters' train story.
Its got me humming that Paul Simon song, which includes the lines:
'Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance - everybody thinks its true.'
January 28, 2008
On the Train
As a regular traveller on the trains, there are certain things I have become accustomed to. Along with being nudged from behind by a pushy commuter, rare contact with other travellers is one of them. Although I am regularly travelling with the same people, we rarely communicate with each other.
Recently however, on a particular journey, a taller, well-built man came and sat down next me. As he sat down quite hard, the cushion supporting us both moved suddenly making my own body jump out of the seat. The jolt surprised me and I turned to look at him. He seemed preoccupied however with his map and had not appeared to notice his impact. As I looked to my right however, I noticed a man looking my way. He was smiling and I returned the smile. For a brief couple of seconds, we shared a mutual acknowledgement of the recent moment.
It was good to know that even if we are accustomed to certain things in our lives, they do not always have to remain so and that change is possible and can be very good.
January 24, 2008
Lie on the sofa and listen
Yes, Mr Bojangles and Anna. When to be silent, and when to say/do something?
This question was very present at work today. In the music therapy group I help facilitate for teenagers with mental health problems, the musical improvisation was quiet. Surprisingly quiet, considering the extremely turbulent week the young people had experienced in the unit. Often the music in this group is deafeningly loud, but this time the young people seemed to want to play gently, or even just to be played to by the therapist.
As therapist, I felt the temptation to intervene musically, to change the quiet and rather tired mood, perhaps by playing something loud and discordant, to see if there would be any response. But as I played the piano, I was trying to 'tune in' to the feelings in the room and as I did so, felt that nothing more dramatic or interventionist than quiet music was required.
It takes a bit of nerve to do this: these teenagers, whose lives are in chaos, might think the music is boring; they might walk out, as they are free to do. But they didn't leave, and it was clear during our discussion afterwards that the music within the session was 'right' for them.
Sometimes people just need our quietness, our non-pushyness, and to feel it's OK to lie on the sofa and simply 'be'.
the real crisis
I find Anna's words about the etiquette of the round table pleasingly haunting. I like her implication that the best things might be happening at the table when no one is talking. It feels like a crisis, and everyone looks at the floor, aching for verbal noise - but it might just be sweet life.
And if truly there is a world beyond this round table, (I'm still not convinced,)might it be also true there? It does all seem to ring a few bells:
'No one's talking! Nothing's happening! No stimulation! Quick - do something, you a***hole!'
Or alternatively, don't. Don't do something. Sometimes the real cisis may be the talk.
Etiquette of round tables
I am generally not one for keeping quiet. But just lately I have enjoyed taking a seat at this round table and just listening. I have had little energy to find my voice. Others have spoken for me, expressed my thoughts.
In my work I have to attend a lot of round table discussions. I was at another one last night with politicians and other 'known' people present. I am never afraid to speak my mind. In fact I often feel afterwards I have said too much and should have spent more time listening and less time talking. Yet often others at the table who follow me say "Anna made the point I wanted to already...and better than I could have done". So maybe I should not worry so much about being a big mouth.
Round tables usually take place under Chatham House rules. This means you can say what you like in the safe knowledge that no one will blab..."You'll never guess what so and so said...". Here at the bloggers round table some are named and known are others have pseudonyms preferring to remain anonymous. Though the world is listening it feels a safe place to speak. And a safe place to remain silent.
When the table falls silent at a round table discussion, there is usually a sense of unease in the room. The chair will often take charge, ask a question, try and call on someone to speak.
Here, silence does not necessarily mean that no one is there. Maybe you don't feel you have anything to say. Maybe you are not confident to speak up. Maybe you feel others are speaking for you. Maybe you are too tired. But maybe you are thinking something deep and wise but just waiting. Waiting for the moment when you have everyone's attention. The moment to speak and be heard.
January 22, 2008
How do you get your voice heard?
I live in north London - not in a posh bit, but in a street with a mix of people who are of Greek Cypriot, West Indian, Irish, Chinese, Polish, African, white Anglo-Saxon and other origin. I came here in 1980 to throw in my lot with a small inner city church where the congregation reflected this fantastic world mix. Sadly, since the 1990s, this little church has had a succession of leaders who have lost members rather than gaining them, including I have to confess, me, as I could not respect the new leader at the time who thought God only arrived when he did.
Recently the hierarchy has decided there will no longer be a leader, and Sunday morning services will cease. Now, while I have great reservations about organised religion and the institution of the church, I know from my own experience that it is possible to find a deep sense of community and mutual support within a church, which can help people cope with the vagaries of everyday life, and provide space for giving attention to God and the inner journey.
In the last couple of weeks I have received distressed phone calls about the situation from a dear elderly and feisty friend who attends the said church, and who I sometimes drink Jamaican rum with. She represents a small but strong core of people who feel their voices haven't been heard, and this to me is the nub of the problem. Ordinary people haven't been listened to and understood by a powerful institution. To my mind, this is a problem with all institutions, not just a problem with the church. But it grieves me deeply that the church, which preaches God's love and teaches the words of Jesus (similar to those of holy men from other religions) that we should treat other people as we ourselves would want to be treated, so often gets this wrong.
January 21, 2008
Leaving a space
A student of mine recently gave a presentation to the class on Christmas in Poland. As can be expected with any cultural differences there were aspects I liked and aspects I hope we never adopt in this country. The Christmas eve meal which consisted of cabbage, carp, beetroot soup and vodka are amongst the latter while the laying of an extra place in case a guest knocked on the door would come into the former category.
The idea behind this welcoming act is that the visitor may be Jesus. This view should surely be transferred to other aspects of our dealings with others but is much harder to implement than to admire. Perhaps including a space for Jesus in a traditional family occasion is a good start.
Fear is an illusion
As soon as you wake up
And look into its face,
Fear can only stay
If you open up your home
To it and allow it in,
Give it a bed for the night
And it will try to lodge
With you forever,
It needs you to survive
For it has no substance without you,
So take a deep breath
And show it the door,
And when it turns round
With those big pleading eyes
Say " NO FEAR,
You are not welcome here"
January 13, 2008
No longer matters.
When your religion
No longer matters,
When your creed
No longer matters,
When your education
No longer matters,
When your money
No longer matters,
When you have broken free
Of all that chains you,
Then and only then,
Will your presence in this world
have any true and lasting value,
But the really funny thing is,
It will no longer matter!
January 11, 2008
Who needs English
I'm sure the new England football coach Fabio Capello has many attractive features but there are two that stand out above all others, especially to an English teacher. They are his need to learn English in a hurry and his £3 million a year pay packet.
Just in case I'm persuaded to take the job I've started planning the course.
Of the four skills of reading, listening, writing and speaking the latter two are the most important. There is little need for a manager to listen to anyone else or read what the papers are saying about him but speaking both during training sessions and news conferences and writing team lists are vital so to cut down on time I'll concentrate on these areas.
I'll start with some football vocabulary i.e. 'ball', 'kick', 'pass' and obviously 'goal', moving on to 'party', 'drink', 'hangover' and phrases such as 'throw up', and 'more money'. I would also start with the present simple. 'You kick ball' 'you tackle him' and finally building up to the imperative 'kick ball in goal', obviously a new direction for the England team.
Apart from grammar, functional skills will be needed especially at news conferences. Skills such as 'apologising' and 'making excuses' will be vital and my course would enable Fabio to work towards structures such as the 3rd conditional. This will allow him the chance to explain the latest defeat with such memorable excuses, as 'We would have won the match if the pitch had been better' or the classic 'If we had scored more goals, we would have beaten them'.
These advanced structures though are for the future, in the mean time we will be focusing on just enough words & phrases so that he does not totally confuse the team as to what the formation is and what their roles are within that formation. Mind you this has been the apparent problem with the last few managers all of whom have been good English speakers so perhaps a good grasp of English is not a requirement after all. I'd better let him keep his money and just get on with it and sit back with that optimistic feeling of hope I always have at the start of a match but which soon disappears once things get under way.
January 05, 2008
a light burning on the stairs
With reference to Shelliz' recent existential cry 'Is anybody there?'-I suppose the Round table must be a gentle place. The sort of place you can leave and come back to without curious looks, and the unspoken question: 'So where have you been?' They say that home is the place 'that when you have to go there, they have to let you in.' But that doesn't mean we visit it very often.
Of course, I love it when my fellow knights gather and banter round this old round board. They are like a fire to me, in the cold New Year winds. But when they push away their chairs, and disappear out, then I believe they out there, blessing someone else. In fact, I know they are, because they are bless-artists, each of them.
I'm keeping a light burning on the stairs, however. Always a light burning at this Round Table. A round table big enough for the world.
January 02, 2008
Is anybody out there?
Is anybody out there? or Where are all the bloggers gone? It's getting a bit lonely at this round table, if no other bugger shows up i might as well go back to work!
On the subject of work, i think i will tell you a little bit about mine.
Every day is different, mostly due to the fact that most of the people i work with are not yet set in stone, as yet they have no ego to protect, they live the moment, they don't hide away their feelings,if they're sad they cry, if they're angry, they rage, shout, push, bite and scratch and if they are happy they enjoy life to the full. For them the world is a new and wonderful playground full of exciting objects and oppotunities.
This is the land of the little people and here they definitely rule!
You may have already guessed,but for those in limbo land i work with children, specifically under three year olds.
Do i enjoy my work? yes immensely, i just love being with these free spirts who most as yet are open to life.
I take my job seriously, these are precious little humans in my hands, how i treat them could possibley effect others they come in contact with for the next 70+ years. Whether they see themselves as good or bad or as someone who can or can't depends on how i and others treat them in these formative years. As a adult i possess tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous.
I aim for joyous, how do i do this?, well over the years (it's been alot of years) i've learn't that i best serve the children i work with by allowing myself to be an empty space to recieve their ideas, when i understand what they are trying to achieve i can help and guide them and set up opportunities for them to practice the skills they need to develop in order to accomplish what they want to do.
It's not rocket science, but it always amazes me how many adults find it difficult to put down their own agendas when working with children.
With the age group i work with they vote with their feet, if they are not interested in what you are doing,it's bye bye sucker and they go and find something more engrossing, being left on your own by a bunch of little people tends to put you in your place.
Even if i say so myself, i am good with little ones and they like being in my company, some of the people i work with say it's because mentally i'm on their level, i take this as a compliment!