Thursday, 27 May 2010

Tennis balls

"Time is precious, you should spend time with whom you want, you're off to Canada for four years in 87 days" Clare Rogers

How important are people to you? How many do you value those around you? How do you know? How does it change? We all go about are lives rather diligently with routine and regularity, over and over again. We walk down the same path that we forget where we set off from and moreover where we were heading in the first place. This quote was teh instigation of this blog and another reminder of a general and slow realisation I have had through a series of events including: my dad's death, moving to the barn, university life, challenges like cycling through france and running marathons in scotland, relatonships and friendships moving into and out of my life, some through choice others through circumstance, old faces, new faces, with all the above blended with a splash of my impending voyage to the far distant shores of Canada I find the beverage somewhat bittersweet.

I have realised how important people are and how much I value them. My move to university and the saga of my father has made me realise how amazing my family are. How much I used to take them for granted. Although it pains me to admit it at times my family are very influential on me. My mother is just the most phenomenal women and I love her deeply. She is my rock. My brother is my alter-ego, my go to guy, my wingman (in a more platonic sense, rather than pulling before you ask) and I know that he will always be there and look out for me. Even my aunties and uncles are key figures in my life. My uncles in particular have always acted as somewhat of a father figures to me. I admire them greatly for their trades, their intelligence and ability to reason with me unlike any other. Although at times I may not agree with them, they have always been the most level headed of individuals and never shy of a thought embossed in wisdom far beyond my years, and forever shall be.

My friends far too often amaze me. I have been fortunate enough to live with a group of people I am truly close to and be surrounded by intriguing people far better than myself. They know my world more than I know it myself and they far too often remind me of that fact. I don't tell them enough how much I appreciate them, so now is better than anytime to do so. I have friends in my life that have been through the agess. Friends I have known since I can remember. I have kept some friends from my earliest of adolescence, it is those that I know get where I am coming from (quite literally). It is these friendships that have been through the wars and out again. They have been battered and bruised over time and yet still remain impeccable. They are the most amazing friendships that I just cannot say how much they make me feel. My Cams boys (and girls) are wicked (they always have been and always will be) and I genuinely feel emotional at times about what they mean to me. Somethings are rarely spoke because they simply are too hard to explain. I simply leave you with the most appropriate comment I can articulate.....yyyyyyyyyyeeeeaaaaaaaaahh peaches.

I also appreciate a number of shortcomings I have maintaining my friendships. I appreciate I suck at texting back (often I dont) and I assure you its not because of value but rather a bad habit persistence of reading my phone and then being distracted by something shortly followed by a temporary episode of amnesia. I also dont call enough, i dont call those who are important to me merely for the sake of calling them to see how their day was. When I was younger, about 16 years old, I thought of an analogy to describe friendships and the maintenance of them. It was inspired by a rather long walk home from cambridge to where I lived at the time in histon. This was a round trip of nearly 2 hours. During which I somehow managed to acquire a tennis ball and played with it all the way home. The ball plus a continually thinking mind got me inspired and I thought about this idea. I find friendship maintenance is rather akin to you sitting in the centre of a large room surrounded by a series of tennis balls all rolling away from you. Hundreds of them. These tennis balls (or any balls for that matter) roll away from you. The rate at which they roll away from you depends on your strength of friendship and the environment and the circumstance of which you interact with the friend. If you for example lived next door and saw the friend everyday your interactions would be frequent and thus the tennis ball would be rolling at a slow pace. Conversely should your friendship be someone you once met say on holiday and they live in another country; the tennis ball rolls away a lot quicker, after all you know litle about one another and only interacted on a singular event basis. You in the fray of all this are constantly acting and interacting with your friends to either pull them back right next to you for them to start their journey once again or you are influencing them in terms of their pace of roll. Indeed I have come to realise over time some balls simply get too far out of your reach and are impossible to grab once again unless you get up and fetch it. Equally some roll at such a slow pace you rarely need to rekindle it. There are some that are behind you back, some that you miss that they even rolled away from you in the first place. To me this game and a game it is indeed, is a question of time and influence...that was my analogy anyway, I thought it was a rather apt depiction of friendships, we all play this game and we all have our preferences, techniques and consequences. The balls that say and the balls that go dictate our friendship circles and influence our lives to create a game very different from the one we started....

To me people are not aware of how amazing those around them are or can be. If you experience what its like to lose someone really close to you (and I wish it apon no one) then you know what I mean by appreciating someone more. When someone dies you realise a) who is realy there for you when you need them and depend on and b) whom you really care about and want in your life at times of need. Things get totally realigned. Rather perversely you see the world for how is really should be to everyone. You are care-free about those stupid things in life you get entirely engulfed and consumed in. The pull of life suddenly becomes weightless and you feel, you alive. You are very conscious of the fact you are alive and how much of a privilege that really is. My realisation that I will be leaving to Canada and my life will change is slowly becoming a reality and once again I am starting to appreciate that weightlessness and how much I value and admire those around me. Those friendships I have old or new, I just dont want to change and if they do i hope they can only change for the better because they amaze me and I love them all for their own unique and special contribution. Even the smallest of things, the little facebook comments here, the catch up coffees on a weekly basis, the catch up calls on a yearly basis, the catch-up whatever from 2 years ago! It matters not. Even those who I feel most emotively for, those of whom I have rather (unfortunately for them) subjected them to as much of me as possible, I cannot regard as anything but incredible. The Cp's, Ily's and Dougal's of this world are significant, significant! parts of my life and no matter how hard and how bittersweet it is, I want them in my life and central to it at that. Life is far to short. Cliche, but so SO fucking true. I hate those people who shut people out of their lives (and I have done it and still do and fully accept hypocracy in this), especially when they are close to you. They know you better than anyone else and I know it hurts. It undoubtedly hurts and the emotion and awkwardness can have powerful leverage but the fragility of life and the amazingness to genuinely share it with someone, anyone, to me is second to none. Undoubtedly. Unquestionably.

From this blog I hep you take away three themes ribboned throughout. Firstly the significance and value of those around you, your friends. Next time you are around them or you get a text, get a phone call, consider the fact that they are in your life and how amazing that is and they are. Believe you and me they are!

Secondly for those of whom you have lost contact with. I hope you find somewhere in you to perhaps rekinder something that once was, failing that appreciate what they did for you in your life and how that fact will never change. You may change and circumstance may change, time may go on, but at that time and place they were something to you and they influenced your life at that point in time. For those who unfortunately break up (...and some relationships are simply not meant to be) with people I ask you to consider something which feels counter-defensive and almost counter intuitive- stay friends. Realise through all the bullshit, hurt, anger and frustration that you only feel that way because you have strong feelings for each other and that you were emotnally attached to them. They meant something to you and you only kid yourself if you ingore the fact that they meant something to you. I for one feel strongly that those I have dated have been some of the most profound influences on my life and I am a product of that. I feel stronger and I only have them to thank. These are key tennis balls, ones that have potential to roll away fast, yet I find myself wanting and trying to pull them in the closest.

The third is that I feel that this a game I want to play more. I have found a new fondness for the game of tennis, so to speak. Those of whom I contact, even in its brevity, its because I care and because you are important to me. I know our lives are changing and I for one will be going through a significant change which will affect and involve the game we currently play. But I will do my upmost to play. You mean the world to me and even if you are not in it I will do my best to make your you are...


Tuesday, 25 May 2010


"You can have any colour as long as its black"
(Henry Ford, 1918)

Really Henry? Although Henry Ford's quote in reference to the production of his 'T-model' somewhat characterized the scientific management era of low-cost and mass production techniques. His quote punned on the fact that methods now produced standardized products which led to the fact that customers had a limited choice of alternative. I explore somewhat of a more post-modern and sociological argument in that people have what I call 'colour'. These are things that make them amazing. Things that are interesting. In short, although this Henry's quote may have been true for car production at the time; for people then, as it is now, I believe he was incorrect...

I really like the idea that people often want to show their lives off. They want to share something which they consider as entirely ordinary, a regularity, a familiarity and for a short period of time they share that 'colour' with you. It could be a passing comment, a second. Equally sharing it with you might be a commonality in its own right and how often we overlook it when people do! The amazing thing is that people share their 'colours' with you and I for one consider it entirely extraordinary, you to me can be extraordinary. It is a nice idea to allow others to view you in an environment, situation or place that simply shows your 'colours'. It shows your character. They say that sport does not build character, but rather reveal it...reveal it indeed. It is usually a side which is not seen unless that situation is provoked. One moment you are something, put in the right place at the right time and you go from normality to a fish in the water. The ordinary becomes extraordinary in an instance, a nano-second. Its a nice thought to think that if you push the right buttons that someone will produce or do something that a) you didn't know and b) you will find amazing, or interesting at worst. I recall a meso-philosophical conversation I had with my brother a few months back now. My brother, like myself, is a keen basketballer. When he plays, he plays with heart. He plays hard and I know that in that moment he is happy, entirely comfortable and at ease. He was playing down a local basketball court against some other recreational athletes of whom he didnt know before. Basketball, like any situation of triumph and tribulation, it soon provided gravitas for conversation and camaraderie and it turned out that one of the randomers he met that day was a barman at a local bar. Needless to say, the barman was a better drinker than a basketball player (most plausibly due to the excess alcohol consumption). As the game and the day wore on, the barman soon grew an admiration for the talents of my brother (standard dowling trait) which led him to the response after a left handed lay-up after getting fouled off a screen (excuse the basketball terminology; reserved for only true sportsmen) of "hey man, your amazing". This conversation is somewhat illustrative of what I certainly would consider one (of many) of my brothers true 'colours'. The interesting and somewhat of a paradox is the equal juxtaposition of the barman's 'colours'. The barman happened to be a manager of a very popular and trendy bar in town reserved for those with more money than sense (not less money and more sense...). Now, put my brother and the barman there...put them in that bar. Now the barman's 'colours' are shown. He flares, faultlessly and flawlessly, multitasks and serves with an admirable efficiency almost compared to German car manufacturing. Whilst the baller is firmly placed on the other side of the bar at the consumption end of a service and at a premium for it.

We all have diverse, multiple and often considerable compartments of 'colours' which constitute our character. Moreover those 'colours' are revealed given the right time and place. Given the right environment. I find this a rather intriguing thought with a number of implications.

Firstly, and despite my often cynical answer in this regard, it means that no matter who you are or equally of whom you see in front of you. You (or they) have something that paints the world a different colour. You have something about you that people didnt expect, something that is interesting. You all have something to offer, no matter how seemingly ordinary you feel they are; even in the illustration above playing basketball and working at a bar seem irrelevant in the 'grand scheme of things'. Well, no. I argue otherwise and that, but the brother baller and the barman I will assume to take what they do as part and parcel of their existence, they are right. But they are rather (un)blissfully aware of the beauty that they hold.

This rather aptly leads on to the second implication. I fondly recall the admiration of both men for each other. The barman admired the king of the basketball court, whilst the king of the bar was doted on with wealth for an exchange of a good beverage crafted with style and ease. Given a situation and the relevant cues which produce an emotional and physical response. People have more often than not either got a pure talent for something, gifted and innate, or they have spent a considerable time and effort to sculpt out a 'colour'. Either way, it should be admired and respected and in some cases even loved. Friends and relationships elicit these moments, time and influence. To be in a place where one is comfortable to share their true colours with you and in a humble and modest way, then they are a person I would wish to always and forever known. You may not be good at everything and indeed no one is. Those closest to you should provide that colour in your life and create something of a painting. No life is a masterpiece, yet we all try to learn to paint. My painting is vaguely metaphorically akin to a piece of modern art rather than a Monet, but I am working on it. When life feels a little grey, you merely have to look around you at the friends and loved ones you ahve to realise the sheer amount of colour in your life. Perhaps then you will realise your seemingly monochrome personality is not only surrounded but a spectrum and palette of colour, but also that indeed you drip with colour on others. For me the former part of Henry's quote is true. For me "you can have any colour...", you just need to look...


Tuesday, 11 May 2010

A Single Man

"I must learn to love the fool in me the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries"

A single man, upfront, honest, free, and this blog is a single mans 'say what you think' session. It is entirely self-reflective, self loathing and in all honesty not a good or easy read (I will warn you in advance), but I feel that this single man has not been honest with himself in recent times. He has not really told anyone how he truly feel. He has told snippets to people here and there, and they will reflect on some of what is said with understanding, but most will read this and think very little of both him and the content. But sometimes as a writer the honest truth is something that no one wants to read, but there is something deep inside you which compels you to write for the sake of writing and say the honest truth because if you cant then we simply live a lie through omission.

In (extreme) short this single mans life is characterised by the following: (1) boredom, (2) liberalism, (3) a lack of confidence (4) being out of love, (5) fat and out of shape and (6) closed.

(1) + (2) The Boredom and Liberalism factors (yawn ZzZzZz)
My life does very little to inspire me and I have wanted something more for a while now. This easter I spent half of it at a hotel earning enough money to eat at university this term and the other half working on my life line of a dissertation (which I shall come back to later). This easter I was something that I have never been, for one I dabbled in smoking, I did it when I got drunk and I had to be drunk. I did it mainly for its cathartic effect and I admit it relaxed me. I also started two fights in two successive weeks. Why is a question I have continually asked, well partly I believe because I was clearly bored and so so sadly I felt that my night would be more interesting if it did, and partly because after being out in cambridge for over 5 years I am perfectly aware of the consequences of starting a fight in cambridge as 9 times out of 10 a fight never happens. A middle class boy placing a safe bet to get a kick out of nothing. Purely and simply, sad. Other things in my mind have shifted, and boundaries past Mat would quite simply find disgusting. I have considered drugs, deeply. I am yet to do any form of, but I will openly admit it is something that I consider and would try. They say as you get older you get wiser; whether thats true I have no idea yet. I look back at myself say 5 years ago and I see someone who was afraid, someone that tried to control all the variables in his life. He was able to successfully control the most blindly obvious and overt variables, drinking, smoking, drugs. However the truth is he couldn't. What he did was out of fear and ignorance. I was happy in my ingorance. I do not pledge that I am a better person for it now; if anything quite the contrary. I know that my view is more liberal, more open to ideas and something I really used to struggle with, more accepting. Some of the most brightest, interesting, intelligent, down to earth people I know take drugs, they take them for a variety of reasons, some good, some bad. One of my best friends started to take drugs heavily and the sad thing is that he felt my judgement on him was so severe that he didnt even tell me he was taking them. It pushed us apart, regardless of everything else, it pushed us apart. I find that sad and an eye opener to the truth that it matters not of our actions. Our actions are something small within something so much more complex and intricate.
Boredom also lies within my routine. I have little in the way of formal contact time at university. I have two modules yet to complete as part of my MSc and my 20,000 word thesis. My thesis, in my view, will happen regardless, I enjoy the work that much I consider it as happening, even if for the sake of happening. I now flirt with the prospect of exam period, I know that many of my friends, especially ones who I feel close to are now in a time of complete crunch. Time to make something of yourself and I know the feeling, I was you last year. Exam period for me is the worst time of the year, it drags and drags me down to the depths of insanity. I cant stand it, the one thing that I like about it is the purity of doing the same thing day in and day out, the purity is the one thing I like about it. I sit at a desk all day feeling fat and bored and thinking about the same thing over and over again until it gets (or does not get) into my thick skull. I do not have a gift for memory or natural intelligence and thus repetition or interest are my two power plays for learning parrot fashion what the lecturer who is marking my paper wants to here. Yes, its jumping through hoops in my mind, one giant and complex game.

(3) The confidence factor (confidence is a preference to the habitual boy...)
This an interesting one for me and something I have yet to fully articulate even to myself in my head, so ill just go along with it and do my best. I severely lack confidence at the moment, I find it worrying. I find myself stuttering when I talk to people, I cant say what I think in my head and even if I think it in my head, I question whether or not to say it and if I decide to say it I find the moment has gone. I find it astounding. Confidence is something I thought I always had and perhaps I should accept that certainly when I was younger a small proportion of that was arrogance. I dont know why, but as I have grown up, certainly over the past 5 years, I have genuinely become less confident and less extrovert. I look down at the front when someone looks at me, particular if its a girl that I find attractive. At the moment I question every action I take, every text I send to people, every word I usually write. I have been conducting interviews with a number of people for my dissertation and I found myself out of my depth even interviewing people. I cannot articulate myself in the way I would like to. I see these people throughout the sporting world, throughout my social circle, throughout loughborough. In particular the academics that lecture me day in and day out and I admire them. They stand up for nearly two hours and rant about a particular subject so successfully, with such clarity and passion. I cant help but feel a sense of admiration along with a sense of fear and anxiety. The matter of truth is that I will, in all likely hood pursue that career as an academic, and in so many ways I can see myself doing it, I would enjoy so so much about it. But the thought of me standing up and talking in such a manner to successfully transfer the knowledge so easily over two hours repeitively is something I will truly find testing, challenging and of great hardship. My confidence is not there you see, I question whether I am cut out for that career. Its what I want to do. Many question whether it is the right choice, my hesitation is not through desire to do anything else, but questioning of my own ability to be a good academic, a good lecturer. Inability is the greatest factor here not inhibition. As a teen I wrote often about confidence, I was fascinated by it and in some respects I still am. It is an amazing and intrguing thing confidence. The power and influence it can have, how false it can often be etc I find amazing. But I really feel at the moment my esteem and confidence have hit somewhat of a meltdown and recession like dip with the ego-nomic recovery hopefully in place.

(4) out of love. 'absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder' -bastard who ever wrote that
I wanted to start this section about something I love as opposed to what I dont love. In an extremely, extremely sad way I really dont know what I would have done this year if I didn't have my dissertation this year. I love it and it keeps me occupied. The ironic thing about the whole thing is that I type here and now sitting on my bed at a hidiously late hour with a shoe box on the floor next to my bed consisting of every document and data I have collected for my project and it feels like my life. The irony sets in when I realise that slightly further under my bed is another box containing a my life also...I miss her, I really do and it has taken me a longer time to even contemplate opening that box. I assume she will not read this, few do and as such it matters not. She, certainly right now I feel like she is a woman I could not ever let go. I cannot think of anything more I suck at than women. They are entirely infatuating, intoxicating and intriguing, well the ones I have fell in love with anyhow. In the respect of love I am on a journey of entirely unchartered territory and boy dont I feel im splashing and thrashing around in the deep end. I am single. I have been for the 5 month this month. For those who know me, I will say no more, for those who don't such a feet is quite frankly shocking behaviour. I feel it is entirely tesitment to the effect miss dougal had/has on my life and tesitment to perhaps mr dowling finally learning that love is not something you play with, certainly not quickly. It took my bloody long enough. The people I have dated in my past have been phenomenal. Amazing people, all of them. Unquestionably. Circumstance plays a cruel part in setting the scene for my often epic novel episodes of love. My first real love has now turned the tables and is seriously dating. Something which shouldn't but truthfully unnerves me. Lets me clear about this, she deserves an amazing guy; after all she is an amazing woman, but she is in a much better place than I am; and that is the honest truth. My last girlfriend plays a very different card. She is in a completely different world focused on what means more to her than anything in the world right now, her work. Work is her driving force and I cnat help but find myself admiring her for it. I always have. Her finals along with a useful catalyst from myself in december put her out a relatioship and into the library, had led to an annoying and saddening truth that really to her certainly at this given point in time, I matter very little. I hard pill to swallow I guess. I was right about the dissapearing act so far and what scares me is that by the end of june, our paths stay as they are now, hurtling in opposite directions.... I was having a rather beautiful, frank and honest conversation with an old friend in London the other day, a level of honesty I have massively struggled to reach. I guess the factors of determination, a nice day, nothing to lose and half a bottle of rose changed that if only for a while. Our conversation took many tangents one of which discussed the blindingly apparent truth about relationships the older you get. The older you get I find the shorter your tether becomes. Whereas once diplomacy and time led to people arguing, disagreeing, maybe splitting up only to mend it over a weekend of entrenched discussions and treaty signing. This typically characterised my adolescence. As I got older, after people have felt pain and behaviour had been reinforced that pain, well...hurts. The smallest of disputes, situations which despite rhetoric would mend itself as nothing more than a phase, both parties end up with wounds that no longer heel and cuts that we no longer accept. We walk away so much quicker under the realisation that I has not worked, it will not work. Often pretentiously so. To put it bluntly we dont take shit anymore. We just tell the next person to jog on knowing that we are on miles 3 of 26 and that we are undoubtedly going to be passed by the next runner. Funny that really...a sad truism and lesson learnt I feel. I feel I have done exactly that, perhaps wrongly. I think one of the biggest lessons I have learnt, apart from to appreciate the small things in life, is to accept the decisions you make in life. I think I knew that one from the start, what I never envisaged is that in fact the decisions that I make, might be wrong. The lesson is thus you have to accept the decisions you make in life, especially the wrong ones. An important distinction. As for now I have exactly 103 days (just under 15 weeks) not that in counting at all, until Canada. I have talked to a few pepole about being out of love of which the most frequent response is often in reference to Canada. Typically there or there abouts 'oh your going to Canada soon'. Now, I will not doubt that is true. It is after all a fact I am leaving for a very very long and extensive time to a place far, far away. But what people often cannot see is that I am not in Canada now. May be I suck at the long term perspective, to be honest I always have. But right now, I have nothing apart from memories and future possibilities. A lonely place. A place I am learning to occupy...slowly. I accept that nothing is possible between now and august, but I have many I think I would like to do and say before I go; whether that materialises I am yet to conclude. A series of events recently, many of which actually not my own, but close people around me have made me realise the significance of a phrase that hangs up on my wall to this day and it will be something I carry all the way to the alter when I marry. Hopefully one day I will. "That one girl for you is getting there as fast as she can", the problem is you have absolutely no idea who, when and from what direction. What if it was someone you already met? strange thought. One thing is for sure is that I hope to prove my mother wrong. When I first told her about Canada, I expected her to be happy, instead she burst into tears and her exact first response is something I shall never forget in my life, it truly was one of those moments that imprints on your DNA. She said 'your going to find a canadian bird, marry her and never come back aren't you?'. No mother I wont. I'm not going to elope to Las Vegas on a weekend. I can promise you that. As for the canadian robin, well I hope so... The most profound thing I can say about how I feel right now is that I am learning something truly remarkable, and learning it extremely slowly. That is the ability to "live to love and not to love to live". Its an amazing truism in my life at the moment and something I accept I have found so so hard, even where most people find it a given and incredulously easy to apply in their lives. I admit I find it very awkward and hard, but as I said, I am learning, very slowly...

(5) fat and out of shape 'mcfatty indeed'
Yes, this is something I need to get out of my system. I accept the hypocracy in this section, in that usually a personal pet hate of mine is that I hate people who engross themselves and are obsessed with weight, particularly when they have none. But there is no doubt that I am bigger physically than I have ever been in my life. Simple. I do not mind the bulk out, in fact I think it does me better to be a little more filled out, but I feel fat and heavy. I have been frequenting the gym with mainly resistive work. In addition I am part of a strength training study here at Loughborough designed to test to types of protein supplements on the effect of bicep brachii growth and strength over a 9 week training period 3 times a week. Essentially working out on your arms with supplements. we are in week 5 (ish) and my arms genuinely are stronger and feel so so much bigger than ever before. Besides my arms the rest of my body feels sluggish. I feel tired all the time, the tiredness is probably a combination of bad sleeping patterns and poor dietry means. It worries me somewhat that I am tired so much, I regularly enjoy a visit to the sofa for a cheeky 1 hour nap, to the extent my housemates mock me for it. I worry that it could be something more serious that irregularity and dietary. It is now post-basketball season and I really want to start hitting the tarmac and get running in the off season. Its something I have grown to love and massively appreciate as a pursuit. I just need to get on with it.

(6) Closed & Conclusions...
So there you have it, pure, pure honesty. To be honest these are things I have wanted or tried (and often failed) to express in general and I felt this was one of the only ways I could say what I should say (sad really huh?), such is life sometimes. I did not intent is as self-loathing although many, I am sure will read it as such, but more of 'so whats going on in his mind right now?'. My blogs often consist of ideals and optimism, this was somewhat of a contrast accepted. But there is always two sides to every coin. Being able to express yourself, I think is something we struggle with massively as people and we should do our upmost to pursue such endeavours. I find that writing this is as much for the reader and self-reflection, it defrags my mind into bitesize and manageable chunks. For now I continue to ride this wave. I do have another blog in progress at the moment, a more carefully aryiculate piece rather than a giant rant. I am a single man as the title suggests and I write with that humility in mind


Sunday, 9 May 2010

Foxes & Hedgehogs

"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing"
Archilochus (7th-century b.c.e.)

I was sitting in my living room one afternoon about a month ago when my housemate commented in his own witty yet mockingly (Italian) manner said to me 'mat, you should blog about this!'. I took a glance and smiled at the gesture and thought nothing of it, as it was something not unusual after all our friendships, like any good friendships are a blend of truth and mockery. I had not given his gesture a second thought until this evening. The thought of... hedgehogs, yes hedgehogs... once again came my mind and true to the suggestion made by my housemate over a month ago. So here I am calling his very bluff with a blog loosely based the subject in question. It is indeed about hedgehogs, and once again a metaphor as an interesting idea human behaviour. I wont say explanation, I don't believe you can really ever fully explain behaviour. I don't pretend to pursue such things. Rather its a nice journey of though provocation to make you consider you and possible people around you in a different way

I have been reading about a concept/theory entitled 'A Hedgehog Theory of Behaviour', not to be confused with the original suggested subject of the 'Hedgehogs Dilemma', a concept which I found to be highly interesting and thought provoking. Clearly my housemates know me well in many respects. The theories analogy supposedly stems from the Greek poet Archilochus who's fragment prose suggest that:
The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.
Archilochus (7th-century b.c.e.)

We as people are characterized by one or the other. Take for example a fox. A fox moves and flutters about its work, scurrying around, hunting and gathering diligently. We all know these types of people, they are usually intelligent, highly strung, work religiously, trait anxiety, always highly wound, worrying about the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. These types of people make things happen and because of all these they often go far in life because they work repetitively hard over and over again.

On the other hand Hedgehogs are essentially one trick ponies. They have one move, the curl, but it is highly effective. They have a more more simplified existence in relative comparison to the fox.

These two personifications are also characterised by different ways of thinking. The fox pertains a sense of reality and existence which it accepts and engulfs into its thinking processes. The world to a fox is a series of complexities built up from a number of schema all interwoven, interconnected. It is the pursuit of the fox to identify all the intricacies ribboned into the fabric of life. These type of thinkers are bar raisers, they knowledge on, inch by inch, step by step and graft information out of every nook and cranny of the methods at their disposal. The hedgehog on the other hand thinks far more simply and as such is able to develop a simplistic version of the world which not only that satisfiable but its simplicity is one of significant grandeur eloquence and beauty. They are the big thinkers of this world, those who's tricks change the world and redefine the bar. The obvious include Einstein, Newton, Crick and Watson and so on. There is a nice truth in these metaphoric distinctions. I know many-a-people who would be classified neatly. I for one certainly classify myself as the former, I am a scatty, spontaneous thinker (if you haven't already figured).

The interest and significance of this distinction manifests itself in a whole host of ways. Consider this, the development of the world wide web and our online generation to date. I've heard it been described as the 'LOL generation'. The web has developed and evolved our way of thinking and processing information. Whereas once information was channeled through clearly defined means such a a newspaper broadsheet, a radio station or later the television. Now the web opens an array of means through a myriad of schema and possible sources. Anyone, anywhere can add their own bit of knowledge or data to the great server of life. This blog being a stellar illustration of such. Such shifts in communication has arguably led from an otherwise 'hedgehog' society to a 'fox like' endeavour. We scurry and skim through a vast array of information taking in a montage and snippets of information. We have shortened attention spans, lower levels of concentration on a single source. In fact I recall a very interesting documentary I watched on I-Player if any of you wonder why you are compelled to 3 hours of facebook per day. This documentary will give you some idea as to why. Its entitled 'the virtual revolution'. The interesting point threaded throughout this idea is whether or not such a change in type of thinking is a good thing. In a world were we no longer write with a pen but rather with a click of the mouse many argue that what you cause is poor hand writing, illiteracy, reliance on the all so easy 'spell checker' and consequently poor spelling and grammar usage. Whilst I agree to some extent to some these claims, one most consider the flip side of the coin. What we now have is a generation of individuals able to produce a level of professionalism through office software that is unprecedented. You have a computer 'literate' generation who can makes things happen not over hours but in an instant. Biro's have been replaced with cursors, white boards are replaced with facebook wall posts. We have a generation who can communicate globally, instantaneously. The change to a fox like manner, although seemingly a fear for most actually constitutes a mere evolution of thinking. To come back to the preference/complexity diagram, you have a generation who is attempting to minimize the level of complexity by naturally filtering irrelevant information in an attempt to simply the vast amount of information available. Arguably this process is necessary to produce something close to this idea of 'optimal complexity'. In other words this apparent 'disinterest' in information rather paradoxically produces are optimal level of preference to a given field or subject matter. Whether or not you think this Marxist macro-theory of subversive revolution is true, I leave entirely open to debate. I think you cannot ignore the trends and data that is blindly obvious, and I accept that indeed the world is changing. At current I see these changes as entirely neutral in consequence. They are neither good or bad, rather..just different. Any judgements on their morality I feel would be entirely speculative. On the one hand to say that they are a bad thing is entirely cynical and to say they are positive represents conformity to a naive standpoint.

Moreover consider the implications in a more specific learning situation. Take studying a topic area for your next series of exams coming up in June. The lecturer you are first presented with are the basic skeleton of ideas being thrown at you by your lecture. You passively sit and take in knowledge as only the hedgehog knows best in its most simplistic form. The feeling of the unknown and incomprehension means your preference for a particular given situation is limited. We all get bored in lectures, even if you walk out of it thinking 'that was a really good lecture'. Perhaps the reason that is true is that, as you leave the lecture hall, you express a preference and complexity level closer to the optimum. Once you have that knowledge initially passed on, you then go through (or not, which is the case for me) the readings of that lecture and the topic area. You again develop understanding of the area, you build on the knowledge you first were lecturer on. The information you learn is more sophisticated and detailed than your last encounter. After such you ignore and forget about that particular subject area and move on to the next, via the bar for a few beverages of course. You then start to repetitively drive the knowledge home through revision, of which you preference starts to decline, you know feel you are in over kill and going down the some journey again and again. You are sick of the material presented in front of you, but you have now choice for the exam. Your preference declines and as you read and develop your knowledge around the idea you again increase the complexity. It is then the cold realisation hits you that your once hedgehog like approach has been magically transformed to a fox like 'flurry of information'. This point is illustrated below:


This hedgehog-fox analogy fits for an extensive array of examples. I have only scratched the surface of plausible applications with illustrations from both studying a module to the change in Internet usage. The list is my no means infinite, and I am sure you can think of an array of other possible avenues for exploration with a plethora of ways. I think its a highly thought provoking concept, which is relatively straight forward to understand.

I ask you again, after all this, which animal are you? A hedgehog or a fox? What are the implications being on or the other in how you think and act?

Just a thought...