Personal Wealth

This morning I met my friend Julia and her friend Val for the first of a series of pilot workshops Julia’s running, which are “designed to explore ideas and to encourage conversations that matter.” Today’s workshop was on personal wealth, exploring ways to transform our thinking, leading us away from a scarcity mindset and toward an abundance mindset. As Julia says: “Too often we focus on what we don’t have now or yet, rather than tuning in to what we already do have, right in front of us and also inside us. We will dig a little deeper into this phenomenon and learn how to realign ourselves to the abundance in our lives“. This is some of my thoughts during and since the workshops.

Julia first asked us to define a series of words in our terms, which are below with my own interpretations:

  • Wealth – This for me is taken to be often associated with money and materialism, the more we have or the bigger we have the wealthier we are, however I also add a second version which I termed ‘social wealth’ that is the friends, family and loved ones we have that enrich our body and soul by loving, accepting and supporting us to memories that makes us laugh and/or cry, which money cannot buy. We look at those that have excessive wealth and do good work for charitable causes as philanthropists, but what of those that give themselves not which may not have an that type of wealth, not because it may make them look good to others, instead it makes them feel good and making a positive change or contribution to the society or world we live in?
  • Rich – As above it is often associated with money, having more than one car or a second home abroad for example. I think of the kids cartoon series Duck Tales, in which the lead character Scrooge McDuck during the opening titles dives into a pool of money to symbolise quite how rich he is. However, as with my thoughts on wealth, can we not be rich in ways not associated with money? As with wealth can we not be rich on happiness? We can spend money on a child’s education from school to university, buying them anything they ever wanted and more, but will it make them happy in the end? When perhaps spending quality time with their parents for a few days together rather than buying them a new designer handbag or day at the races as have not got the time.
  • Abundance – To me this is having far more of something than is necessary, in financial terms we might think of having a greater income than have outgoings. Someone may have an abundance of friends on Facebook, but how many of them do they know well, would any of them support them in an emergency, or do they even know outside of it? However, is having too much of anything a bad thing? Having an abundance of love may at first a good thing, but by spreading it among many those that truly deserve our love are losing out to those that may not give us a second thought, unless they can gain from it.
  • Affluence – Similarly to abundance but an overflowing of material wealth, which maybe associated with prosperity, opulence, and luxury. However, unlike the other terms I could not come up with an alternative of it.

Julia then discussed three truths she learnt from Lynne Twist’s book The Soul of Money, which are:

  1. There simply isn’t enough is a myth that we use to delude ourselves into believing that there is a “pie” of a certain size that can’t grow any larger and that if we don’t grab a bigger slice of it, someone else will.
  2. More is better causes us to always grab for that bigger piece of pie, even to the exclusion of others.
  3. This is just the way things are gives us a very weak excuse to act greedy.

The truth? All of these are complete myths – there is abundant resources for all and the only reason to grab more and more and more is greed; we use these myths to justify greed. So what can we do about it? When we realise this is the case, some do nothing as expect someone else to make that difference, but why should they? Or if they do it maybe to perpetuate these facilities further for financial gain. Having worked with grassroot organisations in Africa and Asia I have seen how something small can make a difference to a community and with support it can grow with potential to become a forest not just a lone tree…as per the phrase ‘mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ .

From this we looked at what we can give, this was my list:

  • Empathy, understanding and support
  • Non-judgemental
  • Friendly and approachable
  • Life experiences
  • Time

For me giving myself be it in physical or spirit form to another or cause not only makes me feel good inside but as I have said since early childhood there is so much darkness in the world, why add to it? If would want someone to be there for us, show by being that person, rather than expecting it to appear like some divine miracle. I do not do things for financial gain or fame but because I want to, I believe in others and want them to succeed. I have no place for hate, envy or jealousy, they only make your eyes deader and deader until no light shines from them and blind to all.

This lead on to how we see life right now, which for me is a real mixed bag:

  • Frustration
  • Ever changing but groundhog day
  • Thoughts and ideas but unable to develop them
  • Restricted but free
  • Content and happier than ever been
  • Feel loved, appreciated, respected and wanted by friends

I know that we cannot control every part of our life, but there are somethings in my life that upset and frustrate me that I cannot move forward with. Trying to open doors and keep them open once I’ve peaked inside seems like a constant battle. However, my friends make life special, without them I feel I would not be as far forward as I have come in terms of self acceptance, respect and love to doing what for them as shown me back what I give to them, it truly is beautiful.

For me the workshop was an interesting way to look at personal wealth particularly as I have never been financially driven and see money often being used as golden carrots to entice us to do things that we may not otherwise do and/or encourage us to follow behaviour that maybe against our beliefs. It has also helped see clearer how fortunate I am in a spiritual way, the inner contentment I have now to the friends I have, which matters to me so much and could never have dreamed of either perhaps a decade ago. As a child I only wished for three things as an adult: a place to call home, a dog and to be happy…I’m getting there, slowly, but one day at a time.

If you live in Edinburgh please check out Julia’s workshops, as worth attending as the discussion helps not on Julia to develop these as future workshops for others but does encourage us to think and discuss as well as learn new ideas and concepts.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Oolong Poem

With every passing day
The spring sunshine
Is singing longer

On each blade of grass
A dozen bells ring
Awakening the sleeping

The voices of the birds
Are getting louder
Rejoicing winter is over

New lambs are born
Coming with hope
Everything will be okay

Along the twisted path
Passing mountains tall
Pink blossom confetti guides

Down in the village
Travellers are coming
But go as the wind changes

From my window sill
Flowers have returned
Friends old and new

With a pencil I write
Trusty tea at my side
Pondering life is beautiful

© Fi S. J. Brown
*Every time I drink oolong tea I feel relaxed and inspired to write poetry inspired by Southeast Asia.

 

A Surprise

Hey you, please stop for just five minutes of your time is all I need,
Gently sit yourself down on that chair of brown and olive green tweed.
Slowly closing your eyes on ten for your little journey is about to begin,
See that red door open it wide and step inside to explore therein.
What can you see, hear, feel, smell and touch but where are you?
Let every sense guide on this journey to a place you many once knew.

The green of the chair has dissolved into a forest where its life began,
A place to escape a world of grey to plastic women and lying madman.
To the left is an old oak tree with branches stretched in every direction,
He is the grandfather of this world and in charge of its protection.
In a hole around the centre sits an owl of white purer than any snow,
Singing songs and telling tales far older than any human would know.

Below your feet do not kick or pick the crowd of toadstools gathered,
They are gossips and liars so always leave their questions unanswered.
Wait what is that sound like fingers down the blackboard at school?
Oh it is a grey squirrel running down the oak’s bark acting the fool!
Follow in and out the trees until you can no longer see or hear him,
As a gentle breeze catches up with you and starts tickling every limb.

Walking on into the forest a clearing stands where a two rivers meet.
Take off your socks and shoes to let their waters calm your tired feet.
The sun starts to set with a sound like a church bell tolling for mass,
Day is now almost over and before nightfall you must whistle with grass.
It brings up the red door once more to return home away from here,
Close the door as you enter and open your eyes but never forget there.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

Written for World Poetry Day and International Day of Forests.

Slow down, what’s the hurry?

Over the weekend I started watching some videos from a YouTube channel by the Fine Brothers, which has kids, teens and college students reacting to things from the past to present and elders reacting to current trends. The music and fashions of the 1980s and 1990s made me laugh, cringe, and feel older than my actual age, I was born in the late 1970s, with equal measure. The music ones in particular make me realise how fortunate I was to grow up with such diversity in what was regarded as mainstream and/or chart music compared with today. Only this week Ed Sheeran has 16 out of the top 20 singles due in part to streaming of music counting as singles, making many in the UK question what is a single and what is not. For me the issue with most modern mainstream music is it sounds like a machine made it for the most part not a human; autotune leaves songs devoid of genuine emotion compared with say Cindi Lauder on ‘Time after time‘ or Snead O’Connor”s cover of ‘Nothing compares 2u‘ to the musicality of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘ or Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir‘. It all seems more painting by numbers in fifty shades of grey rather than with multicolour, which as someone with synesthesia music often does as each piece of music is visual and filled with colour.

However, it was kids reacting to technology of the past (1980s-1990s) I found most interesting of all, probably as would have been the ages of the kids to teens using them in the videos at the time they were new. In particular it was the responses from those under thirteen which interested me the most, for them the Internet to smart phones are normal ways of life, with everything being available in more or less an instant to 24/7. Most of them had zero patience to wait for things, anything more than around five seconds and they felt it was too long to wait. Things that required thinking or a series of steps were pushed aside as wanted instant results. To me some of the most important things we learn in life take time. Learning new skills from a new language to driving car cannot be learnt instantly. Or mastering musical instruments, which can be supplemented by watching videos on YouTube, but to become a proficient to professional level takes time and often daily patience. Creativity to using our imagination is another thing that an app or website cannot do for us alone, and takes time to patience to hone our skills. So in some way sold and new can come together. However, there are no shortcuts to make these our knowledge and not something we know how to find out how to do it or get something to do it for us.

Are we so used to things appearing as soon as we press a button or using an app to do it for us we no longer have the patience?  It made me think why do we need something done NOW, can we slow down for at least a minute, what is the hurry or gratification to have something instantly? Take deciding to watch a movie, in the past we would have gone somewhere like Blockbuster video stores to rent movies rather than a mouse click or tap on Netflix or Amazon Prime. I remember at least a three year wait between cinema release and being shown first on TV with renting a video would be the only option when it finally did come out to rent! ‘The return to Oz‘ for example I remember in particular it was many years after cinema release, like Disney movies that were seldom shown on TV (which was for copyright or so it was said). I still do not subscribe to either Netflix of Amazon Prime as do not feel the have the need for that kind of 24/7 entertainment in TV or movies, I prefer music or books to either and always have.

Do not get me wrong I love being able to find an old song I like and play it instantly or discover new music from artists I love to discovering new ones, rather than spend a fortune on buying vinyl, cassettes or CDs to rewinding tapes just to hear that one song I know by an artist or listen to that song buzzing in my head! I was also sad that when given a film camera one instantly wanted to take an old selfie with it and all did once the kids got the film in the camera, hurting their eyes with the flash as they did! As someone that developed her own black and white photographs in her teens and uses a DSLR I enjoy the process of taking a photograph as much as taking an image. It did make me wonder just how many images are now just files in cloud servers not physical albums, how will kids today be as embarrassed as we were when our parents dug out old photos of us to show future partners or spouses? Will technology exist to be able to retrieve photographs taken ten-twenty years before?

Significant improvements in technology over the last 20 years or so have perhaps made patience unnecessary in the modern world. Think about it, we can make credit card payments, get a taxi, talk to a friend across the world, or even check their mail – all of this online, right from home or sat on the toilet in a bar, and within the matter of seconds! We’re becoming more focused on quick fun — such as a game of Angry Birds on the iPhone — than on reading books or magazines. We also have online shops that will deliver that day, so no longer have to physically go to a shop and wait or order and again wait for it to arrive. Perhaps the signs of this instant gratification was something to come with the Harry Potter buy at midnight deals, as so many could not wait to read the latest book. With the rise in popularity of apps such as Tinder even our relationships with others have come to be instant fixes at the swipe of a finger for sex that would seem unacceptable twenty years ago as the fear surrounding HIV and AIDS to taboo of casual sex were so great. I have bought a few things on day of release or wanted the instant I saw them, the only one that comes to mind being Pink Floyd’s ‘The Division Bell‘ but that was only because it was a local holiday and passed a music shop!

This need for instant gratification is making the younger generations perpetually impatient as they are unable to grasp that waiting for something is what made us appreciate it more. Perhaps it goes hand in hand with things being so disposable now? Have something now as it won’t last another five years. I am all for living in the now but surely this is taking it a touch too far?! Do we really need these instant results and quick fixes? Can we not slow down, as we are now accelerating so fast I feel I am clinging to the edge of my seat in a car driven by a teenager that has learnt to drive only through watching YouTube videos; knowing a crash will come soon and many will be injured and/or unable to operate without the need for instant help and/or support. Maybe I am getting old and have the same fears my parents and grandparents would have had with technology I now take for granted. However, it is a good day for me when I can shut off my phone and just enjoy the world around me without being stuck behind a screen, appreciating what I have now and not what I could click or tap to have or do next next.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

A Woman of Planet Earth

Around 49.6% of the world’s population identifies as female, giving a total population of around 3.52 billion, and 101 man for every 100 woman. Despite this near even split there are still places in the world and people that see being female as a second class citizen, and even third class below the oxen that pull the cart. To mark International Women’s Day here are a few thoughts on being a woman on Earth.

One of the greatest skills so many of us take for granted as we read and write posts on Facebook to texts and emails on our phones is the ability to do both read and write. We learn the fundamentals at such an early age that unless we have struggled with either, perhaps due to dyslexia, we think nothing of being able to do so. So why is it that in many parts of the world this is still taboo? To anyone that laughs or scoffs at these people for being backward or stuck in the dark ages take a minute to realise how lucky you are to read, write, vote, drive, own your own home and post freely your thoughts on social media.

I went to an all girls school, which in some areas of the world it is unthinkable such a thing could exist. The grades I achieved gave me a foundation to be very fortunate with my academic studies to achieve a doctorate along with two masters degrees and an undergraduate degree, despite many thinking I would never achieve anything like that in life. I have friends throughout the world that continue to fight to be heard because they were born female and to ensure the next generation have it better than theirs. Fighting against traditions such as child marriage to widow abuse or FGM and breast ironing as can see these are not a way forward, in some countries it is holding them back from achieving improvements in developing as nations.

Women are our friends, mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and grandmothers, we matter as much as any human or living creature on this planet. We need to work together not apart to create change be it locally to globally but grassroots is where that change begins…I have seen it with my own eyes through the work of friends in Africa and Asia. We can be the change and light in the world for others.

© Fi S. J. Brown

A cry for help?

Why is it when someone tries (or sometimes succeeds) to take their own life do we call it a ‘cry for help’? When they may have been trying to tell us things just aren’t right but we have either been too busy or could not read the signs. How can we be there for someone when they pretend that all is alright until we have that sudden alarm call that everything is far from ‘fine’?

When I was at my most depressed I likened it to sitting on a rocking chair sat on the edge of a cliff. I could see rocks falling by the side around me yet had nobody that saw them fall but me; I knew that one day the rocking chair would snap and send me hurtling down down to the canyon below. That ‘scream’ would be my ‘cry for help’, and lying at the bottom of canyon was like hitting life’s metaphorical bottom. Sometimes the fall kills us, but sometimes when we fall we find our wings and fly. Could I have let others see the rocks falling? I tried but most were more interested in their own lives or I could not tell how I ended up on the rocking chair in the first place due to fear that led to me losing my words even in therapy. I was not strapped to the chair so yes they could have helped me escape it, but we do not always realise how much things from the past have built up to in my case a cliff one hell of a drop.

So what can we do? Be the friend that actually listens and cares in a two way form, it is not an one way street for what you or I want, it’s what WE want and can do as a partnership. I had one ‘friend’ that after hearing me say I wasn’t good would turn things on themselves before saying they were off or suddenly too busy to talk. Distance should not matter, in these days of text messages and social media a message can be sent in an instant and let another know we care and there if need someone. Yes, it can be hard to admit we are on the cliff or see a friend on the cliff but we need to let others in not shut them out. They can help us set fire to the rocking chair, not burn both of us as some may do in jealousy, envy and/or greed; a true friend does not care about splinters or shards hurting them as worried how and/or why they are hurting us, The burnt remains of the rocking chair can then be pushed over the edge. from which the ashes can act as a fertiliser to help us grow and gain the strength of a tree that formed the chair. Do not be afraid as that one person can be all that it takes to see the view from the cliff that actually shows how far we have come in life and is not the end of the journey.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Love

Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us, that commercial day of love sold to us by companies across the world, online or offline. Telling us to take someone special out for a candlelight meal at an expensive restaurant, buy a dozen red roses for the one our hearts desire or send a card anonymously to one we secretly adore in the hope that they love us much as we do them.

However, do we really need a day to say what our words, thoughts and actions do every day anyway, no matter how unspoken they may apparently be or hidden we try to keep them. Nobody has the right to say we cannot love another due to their gender, racism, beliefs, or ability, as it is their personality ultimately that matters and makes us fall in love with them. That love being like a parent, sibling, friend, or romantic, it is universal but one size does not fit all.

The way we view love now is has changed over the centuries, and is quite different to the our ancestors. In Ancient Greece for example romantic love was not held with the high regard and emphasis we put on it; to them love for friends was considered every bit as special as romantic love. The philosopher Aristotle regarded friendship as a lifetime commitment to mutual welfare, in which two people become “second selves” to each other.

The idea of unconditional love, which is a fairly modern concept. Love was been seen in different ways by philosophers until then: for example Plato saw it as conditional on the other person’s beauty; Aristotle emphasised another’s virtues; for St Augustine it was their goodness; and for Rousseau it was their moral authenticity. It was during 18th century Enlightenment philosophers suggested unconditional love on others rather than god.

We almost expect someone that said “I love you” to mean that they loved us unconditionally and accepted us for who we are. However, when someone says to us they love us but just as a friend we feel it is a second rate love as will never have that romantic love with them. To me for a friend to acknowledge their love for me is truly special as mean I matter to them and that is every bit as important as romance. Having a loyal and trustworthy friend counts for so much, and never know what it may blossom into.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The spider and the fly

The sun shines brightly in the early morning air,
Gems of dew twinkling and ringing in her glare.
As a lonely spider spins a web with artful care,
Moving in a defined zigzag pattern over there.
Drawing with her silken thread in silent fanfare,
No pausing to wonder at what she will ensnare.

A fly passes by in the sunbeam’s warming dance,
Attracted to the silken pattern with one glance.
Hoping he flies on by far away from the tool shed,
Or will he become hypnotised by web’s the trance?
Slyly she watches ready to pounce like a warhead,
As he takes a step ever closer to his deathbed.

Beside the tool shed proudly sits an old oak tree,
Now waving in the breeze to warn the fly to flee.
Shedding three of its leaves in a sacrificial plea,
In warning to the spider not to be quite so greedy.
She does not care so bites his head off with glee,
And runs off manically laughing like a banshee.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Prisoner F

Sticks and stones they threw in words and laughter bruising my skin,
Painting all in shades of purple, blue and red that nobody could see.
Hurting feet with a blade to answer why as rivers fell from my eyes,
Feeling trapped like prisoner all in green on life sentence at row M.

Outcast as nobody dare make friendship with the one with my name,
Only a fool would try but soon learnt to toe the unwritten party line.
Writing SOS notes in Latin hoping someone would hear my cries,
But would never take a final bow as wouldn’t give that final pleasure.

As stage was set for the final act I was pushed out and shown my place,
Forever on the sidelines not upfront with those I journeyed long with.
About to be released into the world with freedom as served my time,
For a bespoke crime that had been created for me by my fellow inmates.

They say that time can heal the pain but can never heal my scars,
Forgiving and forgetting actions now memories only takes me so far.
But I have no place for hateful thoughts or plotting my revenge,
They are but footnotes in a journey that they’ll know or understand.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Memories

Memories are curious things, one song or smell and we are taken back to a time or event that is just a something from our past. I sit writing this in Aberdeen, at the campus of the university I attended for degree and first masters and finished almost fifteen years ago, but it is like a different world from my time at the university as now based by the River Dee as a very modern single site campus not spread out over the city. I have have visited twice briefly since my time living here, once for a job interview eleven years ago and seven years ago for a gig, making memories of the city mostly from when I lived here before.

Upon arrival by coach, just as I had when I first visited Aberdeen to an university open day in early 1997 the city’s grey stood out, it is not nicknamed the ‘granite city’ for nothing, one could say it had fifty shades of grey before it was cool! I wandered briefly around before taking the bus to my current destination with a mix of memories that flooded back and new ones being made. Sites like the Music Hall and His Majesty’s Theatre that brought back music to my ears from concerts to musicals I attended there and others that had been the soundtrack to my days living there. Street names jumped out in my memory of the events that took place on them, Market and Union Streets and others such as South Silver Street I finally knew the name of. I laughed upon seeing a bar called The Grill on Union Street that famously did not have a woman’s toilet until 1998 (it did not allow women at all until 1975) and smiled on remembering my project management lecturer saying he’d be propping up the bar if needed help with his course.

Shops and bars that were like friends but now had changed but not gone either; Ottakers bookshop where I sat many a Saturday afternoon with a tea and book is now Waterstones, and Triple Kirks the pub which was a firm favourite of many studying at Schoolhill and St Andrew’s Street without its pew seats. This in turn reminded me of an event forever ingrained in my memory – my friends doing a pub crawl with a 6ft inflatable alien called Hilary, who did it all from karaoke with Fraser to Iain’s attempts to keep it blown up before either Ewan or Rich put their cigarette out on it until they were no more. Nobody knew if Hilary was meant to be male or female, perhaps they were truly gender fluid before we mentioned such things as do now. There are also many statues in the city centre such as Edward VII and William Wallace but it is the lion war memorial that is the one I remember most as forever an almost unspoken right of passage by students in the near by Woolmanhill halls of residence to ride the lion during their fresher’s year when drunk (no reader alas I never did).

I come back to the university and sat in what is now where students would go to learn similar to I had in my day. One friend from my student days remained here and is now a lecturer. I had went to see the university library, which in my time had been a subject specific one in my part of the campus and remembered someone sneaking in fish and chips to it! I usually hid in the jurnal section so not to be disturbed but in later years  Alex and MC joined me with MC’s pile of biscuits and donuts that never got even a tut from the librarians! Computers around everywhere for students to use where as we had a few open access rooms in the building and one specifically for us within Applied Sciences; giggling at the thought of a lecturer searching for water sports but got the wrong kind, which led to a firm talk at the start of every year on being careful when surfing the internet. I thought of people I had known then and those I have contact with now, how life had panned out for us and what we expected it to.

Recently I read something that said our past is just stories we tell ourselves in the present, and being back in Aberdeen made that statement feel so very true. All the memories I have sat writing about are just stories of the five years I lived here, the city has changed but so had I in so many positive ways, equally there are many parts that remained just the same and can say the same of myself. The past may make us who we are now but the present is all we truly ever have, for the future is a whisper and not a promise. We do not skip to the end of a book to see what happens in the end, we take it page by page just as life is a page in the book of our life. Finally, life should be led like a piece of music, it can only be truly enjoyed in one direction with all that it brings with it, and dancing the rhythm of our life not anyone else.

© Fi S. J. Brown