Sunday, October 26, 2014

Reminiscing the constants

One morning I recognized the song of a bird I had always heard sing since I was a little boy growing up in the village herding cattle during school holidays. It sounded exactly the same as it did those many years ago and at that moment, my mind raced through time pulling out memories consistent with that bird song. It is rare to hear a distinct bird song in a built up urban area, and in the hustle and bustle of a city where everyone is always in a rush, coupled with the blinkers that the city gives one. I realized how priceless a moment it was for me just listening to that bird sing. Many things have changed since the time I used to hear this bird sing when I was young. I have grown and changed in many ways in terms of stature, goals, dreams, aspirations and circumstances, but the way I felt when I heard that bird sing seemed to resonate as unchanged within me. I reminisced through time and space hearing voices, seeing faces and places corresponding to the song.

That's just the way it is
Some things will never change, as Bruce Hornsby and Tupac sang in "The way it is" and "Changes" respectively, however as much as they confirm my assertions, they would both be shocked to see the changes that have occurred in the world, particularly relating to the issues they sang about, with more tolerance being the general norm in the vast of communities and with respect to many areas of society. There are certain food items which you know for their special 'distinct original taste' and when you crave for them you expect that exact taste and no other. People often say 'just like my mama or grandma used to make it'. What role do changing tastes play if people still desire old school tastes from when they were younger? Does taste change with time because everything changes also? Coca cola has become famous for its secret beverage formula/ingredient distinct from any other and if you were to want to drink a coke you would specifically ask for a coca cola and not just something similar. Think of flora and fauna, the way flowers brighten up a room, the jacaranda trees lining up a street in spring or the way a dog barks, a cock crows, cow moos or a bird sings. There is a certain consistency to these elements of life since creation, and I believe we implicitly enjoy the status-quo without eagerly expecting changes and we do not even need to think about it. The way the sun rises and sets or the day starts and ends. Change is talked about as both a necessity and an inevitable in today's world, but I am glad we also accept that there are constants we should maintain. Those things that have not changed through time, since we have known them. The consistent variables that have carried on though time the same way and which serve as foundations and beacons of life.

Experiencing history

National Museum of African Art
Many people, including fellow writers and bloggers have travelled sometimes on flat tires and slow boats to places of interest and heritage sites just to adore and immerse themselves in culture, art, history and creativity that perhaps would not be seen had it not been preserved by others watching over it. The museums, art galleries and world heritage sites which carry beauty and art that was, before we were and will be for years to come, given acts of parliament passed to preserve them. These now remain as constants of our humanity which in itself possesses components that change all the time. The only lobbying that happens is for these historic components of life to be strongly preserved as many enjoy their consistency. The constants are constants only as far as we make efforts to preserve them for future generations. 'Man' has therefore realized that certain constants of life become extinct if not preserved, think rhino for a moment and the ongoing efforts to save them.  In Egypt King Tutankhamun's tomb was undisturbed for 3,000 years and remained intact, but in the 90 years since its discovery, the ancient burial chamber has deteriorated abruptly as a result of tourist visits. Now an exact replica of Tutankhamun's tomb has been created as a way to preserve the original which will now be locked away as it was weathering and depreciating too quickly due the breathing of masses of tourist visitors affecting the atmosphere in the chambers. While this defeats the whole point of having history and culture, it is a matter of principle necessary to ironically maintain the same history intact that now cannot be seen in its original state. Everyone loves the constants of life and pays a price to experience them. These constants have a way of reminding us of our roots and history as well as background including people who come into and out of our lives. Besides the cliché "the only constant in the world today is change", what is your view on change in light of the above? Could change be overrated in today's world and do you have something within your life which you long would remain constant and never change?

Image credit

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Consumed with acronyms

  1. TGIF!
  2. B.t.w I need to ask you something important
  3. Please R.S.V.P if you will be attending.
  4. The Q & A session should be roughly about 30 minutes.
  5. I will get back to you w.r.t the discussion we had.
  6. FYI our AFS show that YTD profits fell due to factors TBA.
  7. It is a G55, 4dr, 4WD, 5.5L, AMG SUV with massive horse power.
  8. Can we sit down and see how we can proceed i.t.o of the deal structure.
  9. When you get to the ATM, please check a.s.a.p if the funds have been deposited.
I spoke to a colleague at the office last week and realized how acronyms have become such an integral part of our lives. You can have an on-going conversation with someone using acronyms, yet another person can not join in and follow the conversation, and that is how this post came to be. There are organizational, technical, process flow, conversational and many other types of acronyms. Above is just a short list of some of the daily acronyms we use without even blinking or thinking about them. Mostly clean with a few bad ones floating around here and there when things do not go according to plan, but on this blog I will stick to the ones above. We are a world consumed with shortening everything, more so if the length of some pieces of clothing nowadays is any comparison, but that is besides the point. The world has become so efficient at communicating, with calculated streamlining of the way we communicate to ensure optimal use of letters and words. Why take the whole alphabet when you can simply use three or four letters and say the same thing? Not sure whether it is efficiency of pure laziness though, especially if one has to analyze social media type communication where typing may need to be quickened in some way or else the essence of the discussion can be lost to delayed responses. In social media lingo acronyms therefore tend to be the normal conversational mode as much as some business type informal communication have bits and pieces of acronyms as well. There is now an acronym for virtually everything, from short ones like "how are you doing - HUD" to long ones like "I agree with this comment so much IAWTCSM", which most writers and bloggers will never use talking from experience. Anyway that is a topic for another day.

Unwritten rules
One cannot dispute the fact that some acronyms have become more of normal words themselves so much that the full version of the acronym can easily be forgotten. Most people who frequently get event invites will know what to R.S.V.P is, but can you imagine trying to tell a friend to "Répondez s'il vous plait"? That is the un-abbreviated statement but unless you both did French lessons, it will get you two stares, first for failing to say the French properly and second for saying something you should have known they clearly do not understand, even though ironically the person will easily recognize when you mention the acronym as a word. On the flip side, some acronyms are just that, acronyms. It is more intriguing when one uses acronyms in verbal rather than in written communication. Can you imagine saying statement number 2 verbally? Statement number 9 however, can easily be spoken verbally without sounding awkward. So there seems to be some unwritten rules in the use acronyms. How does society set these unwritten rules of what works and what does not, and how do the rules evolve over time? Is there a limit to the use of acronyms within your own daily life or do you use them passively without thinking about them? Maybe you have been so consumed and overzealous with acronyms and have had to explain in full to an acronyms novice. How do you feel about the invasion of acronyms and how much have you embraced them as part of your communication toolkit?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Enjoying every moment

The plan
More than 10 years ago together with friends and families, we planned a holiday to the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe in Chimanimani to unwind, reboot and forget the hustle and bustle of city life. We booked and confirmed accommodation and it seemed a great plan. We left home around about 10pm or so for the more than 400km trip. Everything went well until we reached the so called holiday destination and saw the state of the accommodation. It was nowhere near what we expected and the decision to leave was unanimous and immediate. Now, this was around 1am that we were making this decision which meant finding alternative accommodation, hours away from home and in the middle of the bush literally. We had to start from scratch to find a place to stay, and our clever planning and plotting of alternatives took us to a 4x4 off-road trail where one of the cars got stuck in a river at around 3am in the morning. Who wants to get out of a car at that time of day and into cold water in the dark without knowing what lurks beneath and push a car, I ask with tears in my eyes? Well, I would want to say not me, but in hindsight, it is something possible. Manpower was abundant with enthusiasm and zeal found wanting. After much discontent, murmuring, witch hunting (for the person who chose the route of course) and a bit of cursing, we managed to get of the sticky situation and re-routed to several places without success of finding anything. Seeing that the prospects of finding a place were almost non-existent, we drove back to a town we had passed through earlier called Marondera (no holiday destination) which is around 70km from Harare and got there in the dawn of morning. Long story short, we managed to find a place and hence our holiday plan survived against all odds albeit not in the preferred bush setting planned.

What about the ride?
Years later my friends and I have reflected back on this holiday and have had a good chuckle while talking about what happened that day. I realized something about life and about myself. We often plan our journeys but do not plan to enjoy every moment, no matter what comes our way during the journey. We plan to enjoy the desired outcome at the end, but not the journey itself, nor the incidentals that may occur as we take the journey. During the mishaps that we encountered during our holiday, none of us thought, "hey this is fun, lets enjoy it!". It was not fun! We did not enjoy the mishaps, only to realize years later, that we actually did have an adventure and would laugh about it. I also realized that for me, the best holidays are the ones with a bit of unplanned detours, uncertainty and improvising, not the clearly planned ones where everything just falls into place, I do not remember them as much. So the lesson there is you must enjoy every moment as you do anything, be it planning an event, taking a long trip or a short one like going grocery shopping or anything you may do. There is the cliché, life is a journey, enjoy the ride, and it holds so much meaning. How easy it is to forget when things do not work according to plan that they are probably working to a different plan than we had, and many a time, we cannot revert to the old plan, which means not enjoying what is happening implies that you become a miserable person. Maybe that detour is your intended plan? Well it actually ends up as part of the plan does it not? But if you do not enjoy the moment, what a miserable day, week, month, year or God forbid, life you end up having.

My tips to enjoying every moment
  1. Determine to enjoy every moment of your life. Not easy, hence - determine!
  2. Focus on the result and devise an enjoyable process to get there. Think differently.
  3. Laugh first, then think about how to get out of that mess. Do not get angry! This I do many times in traffic.
  4. Be alert to mishaps that can make an experience bad and have counter actions ready. If you have none, refer to number 1.
  5. Just think, whether you enjoy or not, time does not stop. Rather make every second count. Do not get even a single grey hair while being miserable.
If the above tips do not work, turn around, go home and enjoy a cup of coffee. Seriously, do not wait for the destination to enjoy the ride. Not to take away from benefits of good and proper planning as well as a flawless holiday or trip, but do enjoy the ride together with the moments of getting stuck in the mud, breakdowns, slow boats and flat tires when they happen. It is part of the journey and adventure and truth be told, you it will make for a good story with friends and family when you return, and they will probably enjoy that part more. Well people are different I would say, many prefer flawless plans, order and smooth rides, but what do you do when your plan does not work out? Do you block all form of initiative towards making it work in another way by failing to embrace what is before you? I have decided to enjoy every moment as I take on anything in life. Believe me, I am not being the ostrich here oblivious to the difficulty inherent in this. It is not easy to laugh when a great plan has to change leading to more work and hours into something, whether it is your fault or not, but all I am saying is it makes life better when you try and enjoy the unexciting, uninspiring and unenjoyable.

Image credit 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Your own hidden record

On 10 November 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver, then managing director of the Guinness Breweries, went bird shooting in County Wexford, Ireland and got into an argument regarding the fastest game bird in Europe, but could not confirm between the golden plover or the red grouse. With the reality of many other such unconfirmed debates surfacing, he came up with the idea that led to the first Guinness Book of Records being commissioned in August 1954, listing world records, both human achievements and extremes of the natural world. Since the launch of the book, people have gone all out to discover what they can do, which no one else can and each event or year is a chance to raise the bar and break a prior record. The book itself holds a world record, as the best-selling copyrighted book of all time and is one of the most frequently stolen books from public libraries in the United States.

Snapshot of 2015 records
So what are some of the highlights of the new world records released in 2014?

A Danish trick-golf artist secured his place in the Guinness World Records 2015 book for creating the world’s longest usable golf club. It measures 4.37m in length and has been used to drive a ball a distance of 165.46m. Do not even ask me about my handicap because I am in fact handicapped in that area.

Circus artist Nancy, made it into the Guinness World Records 2015 book for the farthest arrow shot with the feet. She is able to shoot an arrow 6.09m onto a target measuring just 13.97cm. Compared to her, my body is as rigid as a piece of dry wood. Don't bend me.

Nick from California has an entry in the Guinness World Records 2015 book for having the longest tongue, measuring 10.1cm from its tip to the middle of the closed top lip. I saw him eat ice cream on the news and I will say no more. You can see the photos of the above highlights here.

You as a record holder
Life is competitive from the day one is born and 'man' is always trying to be the best in his/her sphere of influence. Numeracy dictates that number 1 is better than number 10, unless it is a bank balance of course. With the Guinness Book now leaning away from fascinating statistics and more towards bizarre stunts, you probably know weird stunts only you or someone you know personally can do, but maybe some are best performed without an audience? There are many 'unorthodox unsung world record holders/breakers' out there. If you just had the slightest smile or even laugh, you know what I am talking about. It could be on the best or worst side, but it is still a record right? Would you say you have something you do better than anyone else around you, forget the world for now. I bet you have something you are so passionate about, it has become second nature, effortless with excellence in execution. Those subliminal, subjective things which cannot be clearly defined by a world ranking. This is usually echoed by those you interact with as shown by real life examples you may identify with below;

"Ashi you are the best when it comes to cracking me up.............".

"No one in the world can encourage and get the most out of  people like Max............"

"Bill you are so full of wisdom for any situation and you just know what to say............"

"When I need a good laugh, I know to call on you Jacqui......."

You do not need to be in a book of records to make a difference to those around you as best at something. They know you are the best because they see and feel the impact and reach of what you do, the world does not. You could be the best mom, wife, dad, friend, cook, writer, counselor, comforter, listener, story teller, whatever it is. Have you noticed that some jokes are best told by someone specific within your circles, who does it best with the gestures, expressions, voice effects, the works, and you will laugh all over again? Another person can try, but could mix up and forget lines with the laughing being directed at how bad the joke has been told. You don't need world recognition or payment to be the best, but there are more subtle benefits. Your loved ones reminisce about you with nostalgia and a deep sense of longing and adoration. You are remembered and missed when you are not there. Sometimes it is these priceless, inconspicuous, subtle parts of our interactions that matter more than money and world recognition.