Monday, 17 December 2018

Heartaches, hopes and high fives - Day 18

Tuesday 18th December 2018

18 - the number of chapters into which James Joyce's modernist novel, Ulysses,
is divided. It was initially published in installments in an American journal, but was then
released as a complete work on the author's 40th birthday. 
The novel's stream-of-consciousness
technique, careful structuring, and experimental prose—replete with 
punsparodies, and
allusions—as well as its rich 
characterisation and broad humour, have led it to be regarded
as one of the greatest literary works in history
The Christmas silly season has arrived - lunch in Cambridge yesterday followed by supper at the RAC. I will need to pace myself. (I say that to myself every year and I seldom manage, but I am exhausted - this year has been more demanding than any I can remember). But enough about me, onto the blog...

In many ways, today's post is a perfect follow-on from Niall's of yesterday and Nick's from the day before - it considers our world, how small we are within it and has hope for our future. It has been written by David Head. David is a highly respected executive coach and mentor; he specialises in supporting people through periods of change and career transition. Just over five years ago David decided to move down a slightly different branch in his own career, away from senior search within the IT sector and qualified as a coach. Since 2013 he has worked for the award winning, London-based business performance and leadership consultancy, Accelerating Experience, as an executive coach and mentor. David for many years has been a keen sportsman (tennis and golf) and is also well read and an erudite writer - you would probably enjoy his articles posted on LinkedIn. You can follow him on Twitter - his handle is @DavidAHead2. It is a pleasure to have him back in the series this year. 

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This image of the Northumberland coast (you can just see Bamburgh Castle in the background), recently won an amateur photography award and was taken by a friend, John Chappell.  I chose this image because the sea is significant to most of us on these small damp islands. It is somewhere we go to have fun, reflect and take stock. Significantly, it ‘delivers something the soul loves too’.

I love gazing out to sea, particularly at this most moody, evocative time of year. 

Looking at this image you can sense the eddies, currents and flows going on under the surface, rather like our own thoughts, feelings and emotions. The sunset in the background represents a sense of hope to me, or is it the fading of the light?

It is this sense of ambiguity which draws our wandering minds and souls in, like mariners navigating the unseen flow of our unconscious.

‘We are tied to the ocean..and when we go back to the sea, we are going back to whence we came’John F Kennedy
From dry land the sea becomes restorative and nurturing, soothing our deepest heartaches and fears. Stand silent, gaze out and sense the darker and unknowable, yet instinctively known forces of life, and death.

The sea is the most primal force of nature, unpredictable, wild, ragged and untamed. It reminds us that whilst we can damage nature, we can neither tame it or destroy it. We are insignificant, small, vulnerable and therefore ‘at sea’. Shakespeare reminds us of that;

‘We to the gods are as flies to wanton gods, they kill us for their sport’

To look at this seascape reminds me of the turmoil of our times and of the sea’s transcendence. It also reminds me of our own relative insignificance, for better and worse.

Like a goldfish bowl our own world is often too small for us, and we are drawn to the sea.

‘The world is too much with us late and soon…Getting and spending we lay waste our powers’

From the same poem Wordsworth reflects;

 ‘ ..I’d rather be a peasant suckled in a creed outworn; so that might I standing on this pleasant lea. Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; or hear old triton blow his wreathed horn.’

The sea, through Wordsworth, or Wordsworth through the sea reminds us of deeper wisdom...

This is a time of year for reflection and If gazing out to sea is a reflective exercise, then ‘taking it on’ and entering the waters’ domain requires great courage and resilience. It may also be equally cathartic. I am reminded of the Yachtswoman Susie Goodall who was recently rescued from sea after capsizing. I don’t doubt that she will go to sea again. Not just for the high fives but like the mountain, because it is there.

I am struck by how many leaders and adventurers are passionate about sailing, sometimes to the exclusion of all else. When I asked a friend why, she replied that it was ‘the spirit of adventure..not knowing what the next day would bring’ that draws her in. Compare this to Susie Goodall’s text when her 12 meter boat was taking a pounding in the middle of the Southern Ocean;

‘Wondering what on earth I’m doing out here’

And yet still we come, and still she goes...

If we can overcome our fears and risk all at sea, what more might we achieve? What would we do or take on if we knew that we could not fail? In this sense the sea challenges us, drawing out our deepest hopes and fears, whispering its siren call to set sail..
‘Time in the sea eats its tail’Ted Hughes



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