Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Hollow Man

Day 23 (Friday 23rd December 2016)

23 shipwrecks, dating from from 1,000BC to 19th centuryAD, heretofore 
in June/July 2016. The team were co-directed by a University of Southampton 
archaeologist and a member of the Hellenistic Ministry of Culture and Sports. 
Many of the ships were carrying amphoras and the find illustrates importance
of easter Mediterranean trade networks passing by Fourni across the ages,
connecting the Black Sea and Aegean to Cyprus, the Levant and Egypt. 
Some wrecks carried goods from North Africa, Spain and Italy.

We have reached the end of the week leading up to Christmas and I am sure you will agree with me that the blogs so far have been stunning, today's is no exception. It is written by Niall Gavin. Niall lives near Worthing on the south coast of England. You can find him on Twitter (his handle is @niallgavinuk). Niall writes a charming blog: A Little About a Lot. He has suffered considerable ill health over the past couple of years (he had a coronary bypass last year) and hence it was so good to see him in more robust health when we met at a CIPD event a little earlier this year. Niall has had an amazingly varied career; he has been an actor, a fruit-picker, and a postman, to mention but a few of his roles, but then he found his metier: helping others to learn and grow. I have learned much from talking with him and reading his blog.

After many years of public and corporate work, culminating in being responsible for FirstGroup's Learning Technology team, where he developed, facilitated and delivered Technology assisted learning solutions, Niall has branched out on his own as an Independent L&D and Learning Technology Consultant. Neil is a very decent, down to earth fellow. He is a loving husband and father and a delightful friend. he is very popular with people on social media, partially due to his willingness to support others and collaborate - witness his involvement in #LDinsight every Friday morning on Twitter. When enjoying some peaceful time for himself, Niall is a keen walker and also an "armchair astronomer". I'm sure you will enjoy his post below. 


The Hollow Man

When I first thought about contributing again to Kate's wonderful annual Advent Blog series, this year's theme, "Heights, Hearts & Hollows", initially had me ruminating on last year's cardiac bypass, my recovery, redundancy and further reflections thereon. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I had kind of done that to death, in a series of blogs, tweets and Facebook posts. I'm on a continuing journey here, one that I'm being supported on by friends, family, my personal and professional networks and, critically, paid for - and revelatory - professional counselling. So that's 'Heights and Hearts' taken care of. I'm not going to revisit that stuff here.

Instead, I've let the Universe slowly draw me towards the "Hollows" element of the theme. It's niggled away at me for a few days. I don't really know why. Maybe it's the onomatopoeic quality of the word. It conjours up dark, empty, echoing places for me, and not necessarily in a bad way either. There's a weird attraction in it. Something to explore.

And a particular phrase kept popping into my brain; an evocative, elusive, seductive whisper - 'The Hollow Man'.

I've been sitting with him for a few days now, not knowing who or what he is, or why he should be so insistent on being seen. I've conjoured images of scarecrows, robots (Westworld?), the Wizard of Oz (Scarecrow again, "If I only had a brain", 

and Tin Man, "If I only had a heart"). I remembered the 2000 film with Kevin Bacon, an alternative and darker modern take on HG Wells's "The Invisible Man".

Now, these are all fairly empty manifestations of The Hollow Man, suggesting something missing, something not whole. Something sad. So why was (am) I so taken with the name? I even Googled 'The Hollow Man' to see if I was digging up some long-forgotten or buried memory that would explain his presence. I wasn't.

But then, up popped TS Eliot's poem, "The Hollow Men".

I'm not good with poetry. Never really got it. Still don't, to be honest. Funny that, for someone who claims to love words and takes pride in good use of vocabulary, grammar, spelling, tries to write well and reads a lot. I kinda get Burns and Shakespeare, but most other poetry tends to leave me cold.

So imagine my surprise when, in the first few lines of Eliot's poem, I was presented with a vivid scarecrow image again, in the voice of one of his Hollow Men...

We are the hollow menWe are the stuffed men Leaning together Headpiece filled with straw. Alas! Our dried voices, when We whisper together Are quiet and meaningless As wind in dry grass Or rats' feet over broken glassIn our dry cellar

There's more and, to be honest, it's not the most uplifting read. I had to search further to get some academic insights into the background and some suggestions as to the themes and meanings of the work. But slowly I've started to understand why "the Hollow Man" has been clamouring for my attention - a) there's a lot of them about and b) I don't want to be one myself!

Men - OK, people, but for the most part, it is men - with a hole where their heart should be. With little or no compassion, no respect or feeling for 'other', no capacity to empathise, afraid to see or hear a different colour or opinion. Bigots, trolls, abusers, cowards - psychopaths, even. And then there's the passive, purposeless, complacent people, happy to go with the flow, devoid of ambition or desire to learn and experience new things. Heads full of straw. Stuck. Sad.

We've seen - and, in some cases, been - both types of Hollow Man this year. And next year we will have to live with the consequences. My challenge for 2017 is to not 'wallow in the hollow', but to be braver, to stand up and speak up, to challenge divisive, lazy, anti-intellectual intolerance, both professionally and personally. I posted a tweet in a recent #LDInsight tweetchat - "On this journey, have realised I could have been braver, am still carrying anger, am impatient & now I can do anything".

I shall try.

Speak-out by Marcel Witte

No comments:

Post a Comment