How do you make decisions? Do you go with your intuition, collect and assess information objectively, or solicit opinions from those you trust? For some, it seems that consciousness is a smoothly flowing river. For others, conscious thought seems to drift between an orderly committee meeting and a raucous debate between opposing parties. Some of these internal forces are inclined towards action, and they debate against others who would really rather stay in bed on any given morning. Like the proverbial angel on one shoulder and devil on the other, at times it can seem as if different actors within us have very different ideas of what path leads to the ideal outcome for a given situation.
While I have not yet seen the Pixar animated film that explores this concept, I am learning over the years more and more about the values and motivations of the various vote holders within my internal decision making committee. While I have not yet fully defined each one of their roles and voting patterns, I can say with confidence that there is at least one permanent committee member for whom, for better or for worse, the answer is always yes.
Today marks the start of my southern summer holiday, with a two week break planned that will see some interstate travel, some time at the beach, some time working on music, and some time spent catching up with family and friends. For those of you in the northern hemisphere, the good news is that summer is now less than six months away.
2016 has been an interesting year for a lot of us, good in some ways, surprising in others. While on balance 2016 has been a pretty good year for me, it has not been without its challenges. Here is hoping 2017 brings both the challenges to keep life interesting, and the successes, mercies and peace needed to keep it enjoyable.
We do not always get it right the first time. Particularly where emotions and affections are involved, it can be easy to make mistakes, and hard to pick up the pieces afterwards. In love as in life, we sometimes need to try it a few times before things click in to place. But with proper perspective, there is a silver lined lesson in every cloud, and from every bag of lemons a decent glass of lemonade can be made.
The key to being able to maintain perspective is having the right attitude, or even better, having someone close who can offer wisdom, compassion and positivity when the going gets tough. For as long as I can remember, I have been fortunate to have someone just like this to lean on. Unflappable, resilient and encouraging in oversight, consistent in belief, and unwavering in support.
Spring has returned to the southern hemisphere, and it brings with it the smell of new beginnings. From food festivals to inner city art exhibits to new restaurants, there is often so much to do that it can be hard to keep track of, let alone attend. With all of the options available in the city it seems one can feel spoiled for choice. Despite this, there is also value in getting away from it all, as a recent weekend getaway to the hills of Tasmania made clear. Sometimes it is the constraints that make the moment, rather than the possibilities.
A square wave is a waveform consisting of instantaneous transitions between two levels. Fans of Fourier analyses argue a square wave can be made by summing a fundamental with an infinite series of odd-multiple frequency sine waves at diminishing amplitude, while audio engineers suggest familiarity with the tonality of a square wave helps identify symptoms of distortion, given the extent to which clipping squares a waveform.
Visually speaking, the squared off duty cycle of a square wave suggests both balance and maximised utility, based on equal oscillation between full expression in an upwards or positive direction, and an equally full expression in a downwards or negative direction. Experientially speaking, the rapid and repetitive cycle between full exertion and deep rest can similarly distort perspectives and bring out the higher harmonics. In life as in music, there is both magic and mayhem in going repeatedly back and forth at full blast.
Watching science fiction on television tends to put interesting ideas in my head. A recent program that has captured our interest explores the idea of resistance, suggesting that when things are not supposed to happen, reality can push back and present all sorts of obstacles and interferences in order to ensure that the correct chain of events is unbroken. Where it comes to the interpretation of subtle, recurring events there is a fine line between intuition and superstition, and while sometimes resistance indicates a warning to change direction or behaviour, sometimes it indicates an opportunity for perseverance and growth. The kicker, as always, is knowing which is which.
For reasons I am not entirely sure of, I enjoy taking pictures of signs. Some warn of danger, some announce the location of a place of significance, and some indicate a suggested path or direction. In every sign I see, I see a bit of certainty, and the chance to make an informed decision.
I also like the idea of events as signposts in the metaphorical sense. When something happens, we take meaning and direction from our interpretation of the event. Sometimes an event says to us well done, keep going. Sometimes it says wrong way, go back. Sometimes it suggests we may want to hang a left before we run out of petrol. Unlike the more physical type of sign, though, metaphorical signs are often a lot more open to interpretation. Our read of them can change with the passing of time, too. Maybe thats why I like the idea of capturing signposts on camera. To rewind, reflect and revisit the decisions made along the way.
Insofar as one can trust the attribution of quotes on the internet, Brian Tracy once observed that self esteem is the opposite of fear, and that the more we like ourselves, the less we fear anything. By this principle, it should follow that we take greater risks when we are feeling better about ourselves and our circumstances.
Risk, particularly when taken by choice in the context of a positive state of mind, can be rewarding. The challenge, of course, is balancing the enjoyment of living on the edge against the very real life requirement to not go head first over the handlebars any more often than is necessary.
Everything old is new again. It has long been true with modern music and so too is it true with video games, with a reboot of the classic ultraviolent shooter DOOM having been released in recent weeks. Hard to believe it has been 23 years since the original, which I recall playing on my beloved 486 across a coax ARCnet LAN set up in my basement until the sun came up on many occasions.
IDDQD, those of you of a particular vintage may recall, was a code that could be typed in to the 1993 version of DOOM that would enter what was called god mode, whereby the player did not take damage from enemy fire or hazards, and could play the entire game through to the end without dying once. While astounding and immensely rewarding at first, IDDQD had the effect of stripping all of the risk, and therefore all of the fun, out of the game.
Real life is like that too. While there is a little voice in everyone that tries to talk us out of trying things that we might fail at, stripping away the challenge and possibility of failure also strips away the opportunity to truly enjoy a well fought victory. As Brickman et al figured out in the 1970s, winning the lottery is likely to make you miserable, while becoming a paraplegic in many ways makes life surprisingly enjoyable. Life, like DOOM, needs to be hard to be rewarding, even if sometimes we might lose a few men in the process.
In my experience, stress and boredom exist as opposite ends of a continuum. As such, professional development is the process by which we keep the goalposts apart – ensuring there is room to carve out a life between the things we find too boring to tolerate, and the things we find too difficult to deliver on.
For those who experience stress as excitement, the world can be a very exciting place. And for those who carry the burden of self-awareness, pushing the envelope can mean running a gauntlet of self-doubt. Thankfully, we tend to overestimate the extent to which others can perceive our state of mind. We are assessed not on our thoughts, but on our words and our actions. Managing the inner dialogue may be difficult, but it is truly a personal problem.