Tuesday, March 06, 2012

It's been a long time

Working from home today, listing to the beautiful Peter Broderick album HOME that arrived this morning and looking out at a beautiful sunny day. Suffice to say I haven't got much work done.

Having the opportunity to listen to a beautiful piece of art start to finish is a very rare occurrence in my life now and will only become rarer I suppose once our baby arrives in 2 months.

When I was a much younger undergraduate 11 years ago I always used to make myself listen to an album all the way through. I figure if someone has taken the time to write it and arrange the album in such a way you should always listen to it in it's entirety at least once and that should be the first time if at all possible. I would like to think that it would be the case with my PhD thesis yet I am too much of a realist to suspect this may be the case I can devote 3.5 years of my life completely to something that an external examiner will probably flick through, read the conclusions and the abstract only and decide my fate.

Not only is it frustrating but also rather sad that our lives have become so busy and full that we don't allow ourselves time to really indulge ourselves in what we do. I find it difficult to read lots of books because I always try to read the whole book, I need the context and I worry I might miss something plus being the son of an English teacher I feel it is cheating to not read it properly. However in the PhD I have been told numerous times just to read a chapter of a book at most and sometimes now use electronic books like Google searching for key terms or sentences that I need to assure myself of.

In my second year module on sustainability I teach briefly on Slow Design and I get really excited as I explain the concept to the students recalling using a record player and the nature of listening to a record which requires you full attention. I keep going until all the glazed over faces either laugh at my enthusiasm or sparkle because they get it. For them to understand the concept is after all quite hard they are hardwired into a culture of multitasking, they have very short concentration spans they are the generation who not only have a conversation with someone with earphones in, like I used to be frowned at for doing when I was a teenager but they will also be texting or looking at facebook at the same time.

So I challenge them, I challenge my students a lot during the module but this is the one thing I truly want them to try. I tell them to go home and put on a CD or an MP3 album if they can get one an LP is best sit there and just listen turn the laptop of, silence the mobile, log out of facebook shut the door open the curtains and listen. Look at the album artwork and cover notes read the lyrics if you must but just for 40 minutes immerse yourself in beauty, commit yourself to doing and focusing on just one thing and realise once again the shear beauty of a simple unrushed, uncluttered life. More than that I challenge them to spend just another 5 minutes in complete silence, then they look at me as if I have gone completely mad.