Developing a concept

The addition of ‘escape the jungle’ to my blog’s main menu is taking shape. I plan to add a few sub menus to cater for all the things in life that help me to escape the jungle – to be less chimp and more rational being. Less anxious and more free.

So far I have art, design, productivity and psychology.

Within these categories I will post my favorite stuff. There will be subcategories too I guess…sport goes somewhere. This is the stuff I love and enjoy. The stuff that makes my life better.

Happy Sunday chimps.

Mourning the end of a streak

For a few days I couldn’t write. I don’t believe in writers block, but exhaustion and overload are real and encourage resistance to create.

We are all in the middle of a war. The global pandemic is spreading. As much as it is a war against a terrible disease, it is also an assault on the senses. A drain on our energy if we succumb to the non stop media coverage. It grabs attention. The media distraction is only exacerbated by young children and old grandparents relying on my wife and I to help navigate the family. It has been a load and for three days it squeezed any bandwidth I had for writing right out of my mind.

For me, this is a mini-tragedy (compared to the global mega-tragedy unfolding around us) because I had built up a decent streak of writing every day for over a month.

It is surprisingly hard to start fresh. But once you start, the words do flow. You just need to start.

More creativity to cope with tragedy. I’m back and I will hit a month again.

Happy Tuesday chimps.

Timing

I just received an email from my bank. It was an investment piece describing various scenarios they had researched for the effect of Coronavirus on the markets. Lots of volatility, mixed with under priced companies which will be good bets when the timing is right. (That’s a ridiculously simplistic summary by me, but you get the picture).

So when will the timing be right? When there are no more cases recorded? When the death rate slows? (For the best stats check out worldometer.info/coronavirus).

I just got off the phone from my folks in Nairobi and I think we’re in for a long haul in Kenya and in South Africa. I don’t have the spare cash or the inclination to be making any bets at this stage.

I’d like to thank my bank for thinking of my cash investment at such a time as this though. Its comforting to know some things don’t change.

Dining Room (a study)

This wasn’t always a dining room. In fact, like a pimply-faced teenager this room is not quite sure of what it is yet. The dinner table gives some structure and purpose, but there are also bedside tables in the corners, a bean bag at one end, and what was designed to be an office cabinet along the wall. My fish in his tank greets me each morning for food. I assume he is a he, and not a she. More confusion in an adolescent room.

The light in here is lovely in the mornings. While the air is still cool, the sun pours in to light up the dining table for breakfast time. Strangely we never take advantage of this as we are generally in too much of a rush to sit down and eat in the morning.

There is also a door in one of the walls, next to the bean bag. This leads straight onto a flight of stairs and is remarkable for not having a landing. Instead one has to step up into the open door at a different level to the room. Perhaps not the best design, and apparently illegal for health and safety reasons. Oh well. The teenager stumbles through life until it figures out what it wants to be.

When we first moved in, this was my music room. My favorite room at the time, I filled it with jazz, rock, blues. There were movies and computer games. Speakers and amplifiers. A turntable and cds littered the floor. These days my beautiful children turn it into something different every day. Sometimes it is a race track for scooters, sometimes a camp site, a beach, a mountain top for epic adventures. Sometimes we even eat at the table. I’m just glad my amps and speakers are not in here.

Listening with children

This year is still young, but I’ve already achieved one of my life goals/resolutions. I’ve started a ritual of sorts with my 2 year old daughter. We listen to the hifi together. And she loves it!

I play cds with her. We pick a nice album based on the artwork, and I pick a nice track. Af after one song we switch albums. In one session we covered Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, Elvis, Dylan, and a few others. She now asks for “music with daddy”. My life is complete 😂

The fun for her seems to be time alone with me. She enjoys picking the cds and then deciding if she likes the song or not.

I always point out the obvious sounds and instruments to her (drums, guitar, singing).

We spin around in my office chair at fun parts of the songs.

It is so much fun, and way more successful than I thought it would be.

Happy Tuesday chimps.

Design impacts Art & Design impacts Health. Therefore Health = Art.

Odd title, let me explain.

In reading about the impact of design and space on our wellbeing, I have come more and more to believe in well designed homes as a source of wellbeing. Conversely poorly designed homes are bad for our long term health. Certain spaces will create stress or isolation, and others will create relaxation and communion. Healthy spaces should account for all stimuli entering the brain through all the senses.

So far so good. I imagine, dear reader, that you are with me on this…or at least you are willing to entertain the notion that a room full of comfy couches, mellow music, warm lighting and sweet lavender smells is better for our health than a damp, dark basement with odours of rat poo.

But this is where my mind makes a weird connection, so as Samuel L Jackson famously said about the dinosaurs: “hold on to your butts”.

I recently came across this quartz article which looks at the impact of headphones on media and pop music: link I found myself nodding to the words throughout the article. Media has become a certain way (mainly bass heavy music or intimate chats in the form of podcasts) because of its main mode of consumption – headphones which have tiny speakers and offer a private signal direct to your brain. The design of the headphones affects the media in exactly the same way the design of your house affects your wellbeing.

Think of wellbeing as a piece of amorphous art you need to try and shape with whatever you have at your disposal. Just like the music that is shaped by the arenas, churches or headphones in which it is played. Life is a song. Life is art. I’m sure those are old, cheesy sayings but they suddenly make a lot of sense to me.

Christmas is upon us like a tidal wave now. I have started to crank some soulful Christmas carols and hang some sweet smelling decorations for my family’s wellbeing and communion if nothing else.

Happy Friday chimps.

Friday musings

It’s coming on Christmas and Summer is here in the South. Fake fir trees with stockings and presents underneath are a Northern cultural remnant. Families head to the beach rather than play in the snow, but Christmas still works its magic with the carols, the food, the shopping and the holidays.

The generations of my family are gathered in this town and seem to stretch before me one way and the next. My old man is crippled with his leg in a cast. My mother looks after him with care and patience. She will scatter her mother’s ashes among the roses today. My own children are running back and forth trying on lipstick before eating it. What more could you want?

Happy Friday chimps.

Report cards

Yesterday my two year old got her first report card from pre-school. A glowing description of her progress made me so happy. She has done so well.

The report makes me think about how we measure progress after school. An obvious metric is money made, but that doesn’t seem enough. My daughter’s report paid attention to aspects such as social cohesion, personality and communication skills development and other “softer” measurement than her grades or her salary. Her earning power is pitiful 😉

If my own schooling was any indication, after kindergarten (which measures very interesting markers for progress) we are pushed down a narrow path towards industry and conformance. We probably need to do better.

Some ideas for metrics other than salary and position to measure progress as humans after school:

  • How do we measure our contribution to the culture?
  • How aware are we of our own true nature and personal development?
  • How much do we know about where we come from?
  • How strong is our network?

Happy Thursday chimps.

The Weekend Jungle

Weekends turn our house into a jungle. For some reason as a family we fall into chaos – dishes build up in the sink, toys scatter around the house. The garden is no better.

This weekend was particularly bad. At one stage the house and garden resembled the Amazon, and there were two doors that wouldn’t lock, leaving our house vulnerable to…..well to anyone who may have wanted to walk in.

The jungle also compounds. As things get more chaotic, the effort required to bring it back feels greater and greater, and so you just put it off which leads to more jungle creeping in.

But slowly, once the children were asleep, we managed to clean up. I managed to lock up the doors and we escaped the jungle just before bed time. It was a close call though.

Happy Monday chimps.

If you do nothing

If you do nothing then the ants and rats and algae will come. They start in the shadows, taking the grime and food and dirt that builds up around the edges. But the more they get away with it, the bolder they will get.

Soon your pool is green. Soon your house has an ant trail marching all the way into the kitchen and back to an underground nest. Soon the rats are so emboldened they find a way into your dustbins, your garage, your car.

Atrophy is the enemy. His best friends are algae, ants and rats. Fight back.