Who Is Like God?

 

a-boy-looking-out-to-sea

Who is like God?

Love was the father and love the mother.

You arrived in December, anticipating another Christmas

A reward in yourself rather than a present

A pilgrimage more than a journey

Because we cannot find love in ourselves

Only with another

And you were the purest love

The world of love in a moment

To complete the place that was prepared for you

A place shaped, breathed into, palpitating, anticipated for you

And you arrived linking Winter with Spring

A week after Mandela died and two days before his burying

You arrived, your hair already hinting of gold

Woven like the wealth of the Transvaal on the South African flag

You arrived to separate the before from the after

The Anno Domini

Dividing the past from the future

You arrived to say that there was no going back

As the Ukraine edged westwards

After the charge of the dark brigade in Crimea

And your mother wrote the gospel of your life

Like a scream of joy

As the Scribes and the Pharisees fled back to the Old Testament

Making way for the new covenant of love

Turning over and seeding the soil of hope

Too big an enterprise now for the old scythes and hoes

‘We need a tractor’ you said in almost your first words

And we realised that the lines and the furrows

Could mean happiness after all.

Roy Stannard for Michael’s Naming Day 21.8.16

For a version of this mixed with music please visit Soundcloud at:

The Language of Us

 

IMG_1717

The Language of Us

Before you, I walked at the edge of the group

A straggler in strangers

My life didn’t fit, held together with an unsafety pin

I was made not to measure

A bird not of a feather

And my hesitant shadow held back

Expecting never to be expectant, half a step behind

Like a skittish kitten, playing with fear

And then, amongst the bubble wrap multitude

Issuing and popping with importance

Was a face that emptied the page, cleared the stage

And invited me into your dressing room

Shutting out the mob that scratched and mewled against the door

And said sit down, I have a place for you

In my heart

Come and try it on

And I tried it on

Inviting you to lunch without waiting for an answer

Knowing that the glistening still water waves of the Marina

Would caress our conversation

And lap at our bruised emotions

As we refused everything on the menu except love

We had been things to other people

We had appeared as guests in others memories

We were both in a foreign country

But as the first twitch of feeling shivered between us

We found we had the language of us

That said yes whenever we touched.

Roy Stannard for Natasha

20.8.16

For a recorded version with music on Soundcloud please click here:

Standing at the doorway of the year (what I’m doing next)

Dreams are like angels (Joseph Mallord William Turner - The Angel Standing in the Sun 1846)

It’s good to be connected. The human being thrives in community and dies apart. You are connected to me. It might be through business, family, socially or some other variation on the serendipitous interaction of email. Connection is good.

Today is Christmas Eve when we traditionally wait for stars to come into alignment, precursor angels to whisper in our ear and a sense of imminent goodness to happen. Sure, 2010 was a tough year and some aspirations have had to be put on a ventilator for a while – but day by day that infant we call hope will grow imperceptibly into a thriving new year.

In two very happy years at Powerchange.com I have seen the advent of Auto-Response Psychology within a new neuro-scientific approach (recognising that it is our brain that is telling us that we just can’t help it) and help nudge forward the frontiers of new Psychology. As part of this process I’ve walked the ancient paths of Sussex Downland and gazed in wonder at the hills and vistas of Sussex, stopping along the way at Slindon to see lambs being born, sometimes on the very same day as squealing, mewling ideas. I’ve learned how the human mind works and laughed out loud as I’ve seen those ideas work out in practice in sleepy country pubs. I’ve risen before dawn to make the journey to South West London to communicate these ideas to others. I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals to enable them to take back control of their lives.

Who wouldn’t want to improve the way they think?

And in thinking differently, I am moving on. Helping others to change has changed me. Understanding why people do what they do and helping them to change (if they want to) has led to a better understanding of myself. Enabling individuals to reclaim control over the levers of their lives has shown me that I am the master of my own destiny. Healer, heal thyself.

The apocryphal tale is told of an elderly lady living in Moscow at the end of the Communist era. With Glasnost thawing, she was left with the inheritance of fifty years of municipal neglect. A radiator in her lounge had been live electrically for the whole time she had lived in the high-rise apartment block. If she touched it, she received a shock. After a while she had adjusted to this by arranging the furniture around the radiator so that she didn’t have to go near it. Fifty years had passed. One day, there was a knock on the door. A man in a boiler suit was standing there. “Have you had problems with your heating system?” She nodded. “I am here to rectify this. I will only take a few minutes.” She allowed him in and watched as he went to the cupboard under the stairs and reversed the live and earth wiring at the fuse box. “It’s fixed now – go and touch the radiator.” She couldn’t. The habits of fifty years prevented her from touching the offending radiator. The electrician walked up to the unit and touched it. Her eyes widened and tentatively she walked up to the radiator and put her hand on it. In that instant fifty years of avoidance and fear departed.

As human beings of habit, the neurological pathways in our brain will constantly bypass areas of fear (I’ll protect you from the hooded claw, keep the vampires from your door) often with a big ‘hands off’ warning. As soon as the individual realises that they are in control of these feelings and that the feelings are there to protect them, they adjust. The radiator can be touched again.

Perhaps it was watching Series Three of ‘Mad Men’ on TV that did it.    The enigmatic/open, cerebral /animalistic, alpha male/fragile egomaniac Don Draper reminded me of why I entered the advertising industry all those years ago. The eureka moments, the knowledge that only my fevered brain could come up with those ideas. Perhaps it was feeling the loss of not working in a creative team; perhaps I had just felt the overwhelming reservoir tank of creative thinking build up for too long.

Perhaps I just love the feint/thrust/lunge/riposte of advertising, so I was inspired recently to send an email to half a dozen ad agencies whose work I respect and admire (sorry, I’m not naming them here, you know who you are).

Here’s the weird part. One of the companies I had admired from a distance turns out to be run by someone who is also trained in Psychology – and who has run a radio station (Radio Mercury). Historical note: I co-founded and then ran Splash FM in Worthing in 2003-6.

I walked into Zero-FiftyOne after meeting with Neil Macadam and felt like I had been there for years. After talking with Neil Macadam, David Smith and Jon Dudley of Zero FiftyOne I knew that it was time to return to the lodestone and create more words. The thing is, I now know where to send those words to really make a difference. The buzz in the room was familiar. We speak the same language. The glove fitted.

I join Zero FiftyOne on the 4th January. My email will be roy@zerofiftyone.com My landline: 01273 587446; mobile 07803 269154 and the website: www.zerofiftyone.co.uk

The market is like a tough vocal judge waiting for you to hit the right note. It acknowledges your brave, but off-key attempts, smiling patronizingly as you miss the mark. However, the only time it will sit up and take notice is when you hit that note. The one that makes a difference. The exciting thing is that you and you alone can do that. It’s not always obvious before you start what the right note, pitch, scale or emotion is, what the right product is, what the right strategy is. It’s frightening and inspiring realising that you and no-one else knows when that note will appear. Hitting it is a heart-stopping, unpredictable experience. But only you have the talent to give it a shot.

So when would now be a good time to do that?

It would be nice to catch up and hear how you are.  If you would like to stay in touch professionally, socially or personally, that would be great. Dreams are like angels, they keep bad at bay. Let’s make 2011 a really good year.

‘The Power Of Love’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood

 
I’ll protect you from the hooded claw
Keep the vampires from your door
Feels like fire
I’m so in love with you
Dreams are like angels
They keep bad at bay-bad at bay
Love is the light
Scaring darkness away-yeah
I’m so in love with you
Purge the soul
Make love your goal
 
[1]-The power of love
A force from above
Cleaning my soul
Flame on burn desire
Love with tongues of fire
Purge the soul
Make love your goal
I’ll protect you from the hooded claw
Keep the vampires from your door
When the chips are down I’ll be around
With my undying, death-defying
Love for you
Envy will hurt itself
Let yourself be beautiful
Sparkling love, flowers
And pearls and pretty girls
Love is like an energy
Rushin’ rushin’ inside of me
[Repeat 1]
This time we go sublime
Lovers entwine-divine divine
Love is danger, love is pleasure
Love is pure-the only treasure
I’m so in love with you
Purge the soul
Make love your goal
The power of love
A force from above
Cleaning my soul
The power of love
A force from above
A sky-scraping dove
Flame on burn desire
Love with tongues of fire
Purge the soul
Make love your goal
I’ll protect you from the hooded claw
Keep the vampires from your door

Faith in a Big Society


Faith that we're going somewhere

The Big Society as defined by David Cameron and the new Right puts the wider community ahead of narrow self-interest. Without faith this won’t work.

Faith tells us:

  • That when we flick a switch there will be electricity
  • That paying into a mortgage is an investment in the future
  • That this is not all there is
  • That tomorrow will arrive as usual
  • That the future will be better than the past
  • That it is worth helping our neighbour
  • That we are not just the sum of our chemical components
  • That Society (Big or otherwise) has a future

We negotiate life hoping that the future will bear fruit. Without faith, family planning would be a family gamble. Without faith, we wouldn’t sacrifice for the future – the present would be a cynical, nihlistic pig’s trough of satiated appetites. Nothing to hold onto – or for.

The opposite of faith is worthlessness, helplessness and hopelessness. Or put it another way – despair.

Human Beings need faith

How God changes your brain (2009) / Born to Believe (2006) – Andrew Newberg MD and Mark Robert Waldman

These very astute Psychologists have produced research to show how human beings are wired for a belief in and an antenna for God. Humans need to believe in something. Time spent meditating improves memory and slows down neurological damage caused by growing old. They show that energy spent dwelling on negative thoughts for any longer than 20 seconds starts to damage the physiology of the brain. At Powerchange we call this the 19 seconds theory. Spend any longer than that on bad stuff and it will take ten times as long to repair the damage. Newberg and Waldman argue that we have a God neuron in the brain that expands the more we contemplate spiritual matters. The more we tune in, the better the reception.

Maybe that’s why, for many, God is more of a feeling than an idea. God came to earth because he was lonely and missed us and was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to get us back. Logically, this seems absurd. Delusional. But there is a wellspring of desire in our hearts that wants it to be true. Faith and hope speak to our hearts more than to our heads.

People with faith tend to live longer, live happier lives, have longer marriages, divorce less and have less illness. Oh yes, and they have fewer heart attacks..

Even atheists think faith is a good idea.

Matthew Parris – ‘As an Atheist I truly believe that Africa needs God’ published in The Sunday Times Dec 28th 2008

“Christianity .. offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.”

Joan McGregor, Professor of philosophy and bioethics at Arizona State University, contends that the mind can influence the body, citing the power of prayer, meditation and social groups.

“We waste a lot of money on drugs and invasive therapies when we could go in another direction,” she says, “We ought to be studying this and harnessing the power of the mind.”

Professor Tor Wager, Professor of Psychology at Columbia University has researched the role of placebo in the human brain:

“The human brain is not like a machine, but like a river with a lot of ongoing processes,” said Wager. “What you do when you give someone a drug is you nudge that and produce all sorts of ripple effects.”

Wager has shown how the neurochemistry of the placebo effect can relieve pain in humans. He found that the placebo effect caused the brains of test volunteers to release more of a natural painkiller.

The placebo effect is an improvement in a medical condition caused by a patient’s belief as opposed to actual treatment.

The human being naturally generates faith in the process of healing. Healing results even when no actual chemical or clinical intervention is made. Our psychology needs faith wired into it. Take it away and illness, darkness and death result.

Why do We Need Faith?

Because jumping over the ledge into the unknown is better than certain death in the burning building.

Even if God were a placebo, we would still keep a packet of him on our person. What Dawkins and the selfish mob fail to realise is that the human race is better off believing in the idea of God.

Take that away and you take away hope.

Off the map?

Are you out there?

How often have you heard the expression ‘it’s off the map’, or ‘I haven’t planned for this’, or ‘there is no routemap for what I am going through?’ The language of life often delineates where we go and what we are prepared to try. ‘That’s off limits’, or ‘don’t go there’ have far more impact and meaning than the words first suggest. We hear expressions like that virtually from the womb. In fact, it comes as a surprise that the first words we hear as infants aren’t ‘Welcome to the world, don’t walk on the grass!’ 

As children we will hear exhortations to ‘be careful’, to ‘watch where we’re going’ or ‘look out!’ – the culture of childhood is not to explore or to go to places that we are not supposed to. If anything, this culture of carefulness has become more pronounced in recent years. We sensibly, oh so sensibly channel our kids into the Scout or Guides and allow them to discover new things under very managed circumstances. Nothing wrong with that at all, but kids need to test themselves against bigger, stronger opposition than the local five badges on my sleeve brigade.

Most of us stay on the map for most of our lives. We explore the map, we go the very edge of the map in certain circumstances and occasionally we deliberately get ourselves lost, just to prove that we can survive in the wild. However, we are not in the wild, we are at the edge of a very civilised map. We clutch our compass and probably the phone number of our favoured local cab firm and we stride out with a slight sense of adventure.

When Christopher Columbus discovered America he did not set out with the objective of discovering a place called America. True, there was a sense of a brave new world existing out there somewhere, but not one that was already charted. A true explorer is not someone who re-discovers the known. To find yourself, you have to first lose your bearings.

In American law, discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party through the law of civil procedure can request documents and other evidence from other parties and can compel the production of evidence by using a subpoena or requests for production of documents and depositions. The important point here is that the lawyer does not know in advance what this request might turn up. If they did the request would be superfluous and the trial would probably not be necessary.

In the same way, if we know in advance what we are going to discover then actually we have already discovered it and the process of exploration is redundant. When people talk about career and planning their life, what they are attempting to do is read a map that they do not own yet. Let’s consider the word career for a second. A career cannot exist in advance. By definition, a career exists in retrospect. It is printed on a CV. It is difficult to plot or calculate in advance. However, careering about in your job or life in general may have the unexpected consequence of touching the edges of what is possible. You may discover areas of the future that you didn’t know existed.

Staying on the map means that you will not discover what lies off the map, the other side of the horizon, where the places are when you wander off the beaten track. Do you want to live on a beaten track? Do you want to live on the wall or off it?  

You don’t have to subscribe to the National Geographic in order to explore. You don’t need to buy a tent and canoe down the Amazon. You don’t need to be Bear Grylls or Ray Mears. It’s a state of mind not a state of nation.

The first step of discovery is understanding that the door in front of you is locked on the inside, not the outside and that you hold the key. Step through it and breathe in the air. It looks unfamiliar but the sun is shining. Beyond the map, there is another map, undrawn.

Congratulations, you have just become an explorer.

Work Life Balance. Debunked.

 

Life Balance wheel - is it meant to run smoothly?

Life Balance wheel - is it meant to run smoothly?

For years now I have been driven into by well-meaning NLP practitioners behind their Life Balance Wheel, determined to get me to score every aspect of my life in a harmonic way. The point of this exercise is to throw into sharp relief elements of my everyday existence out of kilter with the rest. The metaphor being that, if the wheel resembles a Mumbai taxi driver’s wheel (oval rather than round – or worse, Fred Flintstone’s square wheel) then my life is out of balance and I’m thumping along the road, scattering my passengers (friends and family) about in the back like a sack of potatoes.

The most commonly listed areas in need of balance are Friends/Family, Fitness and Health, Career, Money, Personal and Spiritual Growth, Romance/Significant Other, Physical Environment/Home and Fun/Recreation.  The general idea is that, within these sectors, one scores how satisfied one is with that area (usually between 1 and 7) and then joins the dots around the circle. Where the lumpy bits appear, this is where your life is out of balance and corrective action is needed. 

 

Watch out for the wheel!

Watch out for the wheel!

Any number of Life Coaches out there use this as a basic diagnostic tool to make people feel like they need help from the sidelines to get their life back into balance by spending more time at home or writing poetry. The Life Coach will exhort you to spend five hours of quality time at home each evening – or composing verse in order to get in touch with your creative side.

If you are only 80% satisfied with your career, then you need to score that as an eight on the wheel or 6 on the 0-7 model. You get the idea. A simple little diagrammatic diagnostic to make you feel like you need some moulding around the edges of the clay pot of your life. The wheel is turning and your beautiful clay pot is getting all skew whiff, flanging at the edges whilst your nearest and dearest desperately try to push the clay walls back in. The heroic coach rides triumphantly into the art class and puts the pot back together.

This is such a childishly simple technique that I am embarrassed on behalf of all the coaches out there who take your hard earned pounds. You can draw your own wheel. You can do your own yelling from the touchline. You can achieve balance. The bumps will disappear and your beautiful clay pot will ossify into an ornament.

This is fine. But there is one problem.

All the people I have known who have achieved significant, entrepreneurial, creative, breakthrough success have been out of whack. They have been single-minded, often selfish, mavericks that have driven their loved ones mad. The only wheels they have been interested in have been the type that Jeremy Clarkson drives. The spokes that they relate to are the ones that you throw into the heart of the machine. The balance that they are seeking is the kind that you find on a tightrope.

Boundaries are not extended by responsible public citizens, they are stretched by pioneers. Breakthroughs are achieved by people who like breaking things. Explorers don’t work nine to five. Inventors don’t look for jobs in the Classifieds.  Leaders don’t complete customer satisfaction surveys before making decisions. Take Churchill. He didn’t have great work-life balance. He said “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” A life coach would have called him a manic obsessive.  General Patton put it another way, “Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” George Smith Patton was not renowned for his equilibrium either.

“Sometimes I worry about being a success in a mediocre world,” said the actress Lily Tomlin. The soma quest for balance is a recipe for mediocrity. We sandpaper down our rough edges of talent, inspiration, insight, humour, genius until they disappear.

Passion, obsession, zeal, ambition, never giving up, being infuriating partners, fathers, mothers, bosses, employees: these are the grits in the tank that gave us the Apollo Moon Mission, Christopher Columbus, Marie Curie and Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

 

The mill that we tread

The mill that we tread

The trouble with the work life balance wheel is that it just goes round and round and round. Like a hamster in a cage, never ever really getting anywhere.

 

So who do you want to be? The village postman or an astronaut?

 

Seagulls by Roy Stannard

Littlehampton (edited)

 

Seagulls

There must always be seagulls

Just as there were

When I struck  lucky

And met you

Offering you a lift

In a quiet seaside town

Where nothing happens, except us.

That was ten years

And many seagulls ago

But the same sense

That anything could happen

Happens again

As I look into those eyes

Looking at me now

Blue like the sea in July

Always flowing back in my direction

Seeking the next horizon.

We need the seagulls

To remind us

That there is a world beyond

The trampled square we occupy

Where our dreams can take wing

Our children fly

And the people we always were

Will always be.

 

Roy Stannard