Today I am thinking about networks. It was in my head whilst I was faffing about yesterday. And was reawakened today when I opened some Christmas cards.
First of all, I have to admit that opening Christmas cards (well, post of any kind actually) is a rare occurrence for me. My natural inclination is to regard post, not as an exciting possibility, more as a potential intrusion. I normally have more than enough stuff to keep me occupied for the day without any external input. Within those envelopes lies the danger of stuff needing to be done which will eat up the time available for me to do the stuff that I want to do. That I have decided is important. Each of those envelopes is out to steal my time away from me. And, let’s face it, time is limited for all of us. Time is precious. I want to choose how I spend it. So, generally, I leave post unopened. Until, I decide that I have the time. Same goes for emails too, I am afraid. As far as I am concerned they are Instant Bother – a device perfected to waste your time. At this point, I fear, many people I know reading this will be nodding to themselves: “Well, that explains a lot.”
Anyway, today, for some reason, I opened some Christmas cards.
Oh, before I go on, I also have to admit that my reluctance to open Christmas cards naturally results in a failure to write many. Well, any, this year, actually. I am sorry. I could pretend that I do not send cards due to a principled decision not to participate in the commercial overkill that is a modern Christmas. But that would be a lie. The truth is it is due to a selfish reluctance on my part to surrender my own precious time to the activity. Now, I am starting to feel bad about myself. Like, maybe, I should stop typing and go and write some Christmas cards instead.
But, no, I have made a commitment to write this thing everyday and I am almost there. So, if you are reading this regard it as your Christmas card. I love you and all the family are doing well and let’s try and meet up in 2016. Love Andy
Anyway, today, I opened some Christmas cards. And it occurred to me, as I did so, that each sender was part of a series of networks of which I am a part. Family. Childhood Friends. Friends from University. And they were all Historic Networks – networks of people that I rarely see. Some, I may never see again. Not in this life. Yet, they are undeniably a part of me still. Each opened card seemed to provide access to, not just the sender, but the whole network of which they were/are part. Each sender’s name prompted the opening up of a complex network of memories, hopes, dreams, failures and successes. Fleeting, maybe, but powerful, nonetheless.
Then I started to think about the number of Present Networks I had been involved with in the past few days. This strange and wonderful blogoverse where the things I write are read by people in my home town (another series of networks), Irish witches, U.S. Christians, French pagans, cabin dwellers in Sweden, city slickers in Russia, Canadian farmers – a peculiar and disparate network. But a network that has taken up a large amount of my time this month.
Then there is the network of Much Wenlock dog walkers. My network of tai chi students. The people I play with in a band. Various social media networks. Tonight I am going to a party where most of the people will be part of a network of parents of children who went to the same Primary School – a network that is both Historical and Present. There are many more.
I suppose that your immediate family is also another kind of network. One that is so close to you that it feels different but is, essentially, another, very powerful, network.
And, eventually, it occurs to me that I am nothing more than a complex web of networks. Some of them biological – my malfunctioning neural network, my various circulatory systems- networks of blood, lymph, energy, chi. Some social. Some conceptual. Some based on shared location. Some on shared opinions. Others on shared experiences.
And it also occurs to me that all my working lives have been about setting up networks. Bringing people together. Enabling them to work together. To see what happens. When I was a teacher in schools, I tried always to create new networks. To bring together people who did not usually work together – Primary and Secondary schools working together as equals, Artists and Teachers working together, cross-curricular teams and projects. The best networks were always the most unlikely. The ones you never would have put money on working.
Now, as a tai chi instructor, I find myself facilitating networks between students internationally – in the UK, Norway and Spain. One such project that worked beautifully involved me (who speaks no Spanish) and a Spanish guy with Turret’s (who speaks no English and doesn’t own a computer) somehow arranging a weekend workshop in Malaga for students from across Spain and the UK. I would not have bet money on it working – but it was wonderful.
Networks just seems to be what I do. I think that I am pretty good at enabling people to work together.
Even if I am totally rubbish at opening Christmas cards.
So, on Monday it is the Solstice and Jo & I will be lighting a fire to celebrate the turning of the year and inviting people to come to our home to celebrate the network of people who read this Yule Blog. Things will get started at around 7pm. There will be mulled cider and soup and bread. We are both too tired to make a lot of food so we would appreciate it if you bring a dish with you – savoury or sweet it is up to you. It would also be useful to have an idea of numbers in order to arrange seating, so let us know if you coming. Most importantly, the fire will be about sharing – so bring a song, a poem, a story or a joke to share. And if you can’t be there but would like to share, just leave your contribution on the comments page and we’ll read it out.
And I guess that is my gift for today.