Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Heights, Hearts & Hollows

Day 22 (Thursday 22nd December 2016)

22% of cetaceans (as illustrated by 29 sperm whales stranded on shores around the North Sea in January
, all found to have plastic in their stomachs), 44% of all seabirds, all sea turtles and an
increasing list of fish species have been recorded as having plastic in or around their bodies. 
But Nature is beginning to fight back - Japanese scientists have discovered a bacterium that has evolved since
the 1940s, when plastics were invented, and can now break down PET
 (polyethylene terephthalate).
I am delighted to welcome you to today's blog, it's author, Ed Griffin, is the Head of HR for the Global Network of the British Council. I first met Ed when he was teaching people how to be HR professionals when he was an Associate at Roffey Park - if I have any admirable HR skills they are primarily down to Ed. He certainly inspired a group of us to think strategically and to consult before introducing change (he now practices what he preached and leads by example).

Ed is a truly delightful, highly intelligent man. He lives and works according to his values and is a devoted partner, father, friend (and dog owner). He cares about the world and, being highly principled, strives to make it a better place than as he has found it. He has a great sense of humour and enviable patience. Many people have commented to me that Ed inspires trust. He is recognised as being one of the world's leading experts in organisational development - he co-authored the acclaimed book on the subject: "A Field Guide for Organisation Development: Taking Theory into Practice". Ed loves the countryside and could be described as a natural field guide, as well as the creator of a book that guides businesses. Ed lives in East Sussex and work in London (although his current role demands considerable overseas travel. You can connect with him on Twitter, his handle is @EdjGriffin


Heights, Hearts & Hollows

“We can't have the happiness of yesterday without the pain of today. That's the deal.”
Joy Gresham in Shadowlands, 1993

When the message came from Kate asking for contributors for this year’s Advent Blog series, I was keen to see what the theme was. When I first read it I wasn’t sure what to make of it and I struggled to think of what I could bring. Over the course of several days I kept coming back to the theme, and then I was reminded of a line from one of our favourite films, Shadowlands.  This was the dramatization of the story of C S Lewis’ tragically short relationship and marriage with Joy Gresham. For me the quote at the top of the page brought together the three elements of this year’s theme. Experience continues to reinforce for me the idea that to live life to the full I have to be prepared to accept that the heights, hearts and hollows are a job lot.

Just over 7 years ago we got Maibel, our much loved Springer Spaniel. I’d never had a dog before and we took the plunge of going for a full-on working dog. That meant a huge appetite for exercise and a need to train really well. We went through some ups and downs in the first few years as we struggled to get to grips with her energy levels. There were times when we worried we wouldn’t be able to cope. She then became my companion for cross-country running and there was an absolute joy for me of heading across fields and through woods with her setting the pace ahead of me. I realised early on that having a dog had the potential for being something more than just having an ordinary pet. It was also always clear that a dog has relatively short life.

As she’s got older, we’ve all become deeply attached to Maibel. This summer we had a real scare on holiday when she unexpectedly developed pneumonia and we thought we were going to lose her. We were all in pieces and it seemed a miracle that she survived. It really brought it home to us both how much we care and how tenuous the hold on life can be. I’ve had to give up running and now our time together may be crashed out on the sofa!

This post wasn’t meant to be in praise of dogs (although it does praise them!); it’s meant to be a general reflection on how you can’t really feel the heat of the flame without the possibility also of getting burnt. Logic may tell us that the hurt of loss or disappointment can be hard to get over, but without it life has no contrast and we risk living in a state of anodyne safety. I think that’s a denial of what it can really mean to be human.
What lets us know the heights is also knowing the hollows; it’s the contrast that lets us really know how good something is. Logic may tell us that to commit with our heart may lead to hurt, but without taking the plunge we may never know the potential heights.

The great thing about life is that we have the constant possibility of Heights and Hollows, and without both life would be pretty dull. Just remind yourself from time to time to give your heart. Whether, that’s at work, in relationships or other aspects of life as it what’s makes us really live and experience life to the full.

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