I read with interest a few weeks ago of the UNICEF report into materialism amongst British children. If you haven’t read the report, then I would urge you to have a look at it. It presents a view that seems brimming over with common sense – spend more time together as families, and less attention on wanting ‘things’ that don’t actually improve our sense of wellbeing.
Simple enough to say, but how do you get a culture obsessed with materialism and a pursuit of fame/eternal youth to mend its ways? I think a simple way to set out to achieve this would be to start small. Have a look at your own actions – do you spend enough time with those that you love? Do you put time with them above other pursuits? Do you as a family eat together? Perhaps this would be a simple place to start. We try to eat together as a family as often as we can (this is dependant on me getting out the office early enough! – more on this to follow), and we make sure it’s technology free. No TV, no laptops, no mobiles. Just us, enjoying each others company. A simple first step.
I have loads more to say about materialism, but I think I’ll save that for other posts. Besides, I’m breaking myself in gently to sharing my thoughts online again, after a long break.
I say Tuesday, but in all honesty, any day ought to be a day for random acts! I’m just going to use Tuesday to talk about them.
Over the coming weeks, Tuesday will be a day that I talk about my random acts, but to kick things off, I thought it best to talk about one in particular that’s much more than I could ever achieve.
Pay it forward.
What is ‘Pay it forward?’ – well, simply put, don’t repay a good deed with a returned favour – instead repay it with a good deed for someone else.
Traditionally, this may have been seen as a greek concept, but was best described by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody. – Compensation, 1841
This concept has grown so huge, it’s started a foundation, and even had a Holywood movie about it. What a lovely simple concept though – don’t just help one person in return, help others.
I say welcome, but you’re not quite here, are you? You’ve found your way online to my new digital home, but no matter which way you look at it, it’s just not quite real.
You’re looking at pixels displayed on a screen that form the shape of characters that I typed at some point into a computer. The thoughts I had in my head to shape these words left my fingertips and through the complexities of technology have found their way online. If you actually know me, you can perhaps imagine me saying these words out loud, and hear the intonation that I would give to the sentence structure, but if you don’t know me, you are putting your own rhythm and meter to these words. In many ways, they are therefore no longer mine, but yours.
So ‘welcome’ to almostab.
Why call a site ‘almostab’?
I have a very common name, and it’s not possible for me to buy the domain name that would be simply my name. I’ll write more about that in the future. For now, I chose a name that signifies my feelings about the online world. This is the closest you can get to me beyond the physical world. And let me be quite clear about my feelings here: online is a poor second place. Try as I might, I will not be able to convey exactly what I mean here. Sure, the thoughts and opinions you’ll find here are mine, but due to the limitations of technology, the closest this comes to me is ‘almost’. Great though technology is, it’s just not quite good enough to convey all that we need. Do you know that the majority of what we say is not conveyed by our words but by our bodies? If I’d chosen to video this, would you still be getting the whole message? I would contend that you wouldn’t. You wouldn’t get the fact that my breathing is shorter or my pulse is quicker when I address a group of people. You wouldn’t have seen me prior to or after my speaking. All you’d have received are the carefully selected moments that didn’t make it to the digital cutting room floor. I would contend the only way to really get a complete message from me is to engage with me in the real world.
If real life is best then, why keep this site at all? The thing is, I think ‘almost’ can be really useful. Here, we don’t have the problems of time or location. Overcoming both of those makes this site potentially worth its digital weight in gold.
So for those of you that aren’t able to interact with me in person, then this site is for you –
whoever you are,
wherever you are,
whenever you are.
the digital home of Andrew Brown