My friend Geraldine recently celebrated her 83rd birthday.  I phoned to congratulate her on reaching this milestone. In the past, she has invited her friends for a morning tea to celebrate this annual event, but having recently moved to a new senior residence she has abandoned this routine. We resorted to having a chat on the phone.

Catching up

We were discussing our friendship of the past 40 odd years.  We met many years ago at an Easter camp that was run by our local hiking club.  We travelled together to the Alps on a two week hiking tour in Austria.   We reminisced about the many local trails we had hiked together.  We had spent a month in Israel, where we participated in special volunteer program.   In this program, people living in the diaspora can spend three weeks on an Israeli Army Base getting to know the country and its people.   Simultaneously they work as temporary members of the Israeli Defence Force, thus playing a small part in the country’s security.

Changing Technology

Geraldine was telling me that despite the fact that she is considered one of the most technologically sophisticated in her Residential Home she was really put out when visiting her son in America.   She does her own internet banking, and regularly uses an ATM.  However she was unable to begin to master the new systems she found in the States when she visited her son last year.  She expressed her feelings of unfairness.  She wanted to put a new app on her 5 year old ipad but was unable to download the software to her out of date device.  Her laptop of 10 years is unable to cope with the latest upgrades.  “It’s not fair,” she proclaimed, “How do they expect people like me to manage if they keep changing these things?”

Into the Future

If this is how an 83 year old is feeling in 2019, then how are people of a similar age going to feel 30 years from now?  By that time, technology will be changing even faster than today.  Each year the speed of change in the field of communications is accelerated.  I feel that people who are about to retire need to retain their capacity to keep up with the ever changing demands of technology.  Senior people need to maintain a positive attitude to learning new concepts.    The should be aware that our previous skills sets will not equip us for the future environment.

And, Another Friend

I was chatting to another friend who is a retired librarian.  She has a wide knowledge of literature and has been a leader in her local book club for many years.  When I saw Maria recently, I asked her what she was finding interesting in the contemporary world of literature.   I enquired whether she was enjoying an author whom I admire. “Oh yes,” of course,” she responded when I questioned her on the work of Yuval Noah Harari, “I have read all his books, although I did find his second one Homo Deus somewhat challenging.”  I decided to follow up with, “And, do you maybe read the blogs of Maria Popova.  She is someone whose work I respect. She has the ability to synthesise knowledge on such a wide range of contemporary psychological and philosophical issues.”   “No,” she said, somewhat condescendingly, “I do not have enough time to read blogs.”   “Oh dear,” I thought, “It is clear we have some different values regarding the source of useful information.”

The Implications

I see an interesting parallel.   Some people live in a country and never learn the primary official language of their adopted home.   Then, others have a negative attitude toward technological change.

We are not all going to be using all the opportunities presented by social media, or all the potential apps which are available for download.  However, I do consider it a disadvantage to cut oneself off from the reading of all the personal, anecdotal, and contemporary perspectives to be discovered by reading blogs.

My Potential Contribution

I am working hard to develop an online course specifically targeting people nearing their retirement.  I plan to share some of the habits I have been practising for most of my life.

Physical well-being

Not just the benefits of daily and ongoing exercise, but the necessity of developing a routine that includes both walking and more robust activities.  I believe potential retirees need to continue to learn new skills.  They should continuously set themselves everyday cognitive challenges.   They need to be in a position to take advantages of the fresh possibilities which become available.

Cognitive well-being

An awareness of the many ways to keep the mind active will become critically relevant.  Watching passive entertainment on the TV screen or playing games on the phone do not qualify.

Emotional well-being

Furthermore, I believe an ability to practice the techniques of mindfulness and meditation have become a pre-requisite for maintaining emotional equilibrium. These skills assist us in processing new experiences, objectively and healthily.   Allow us to develop our emotional resilience.

My hope

I hope you will be following me as I develop my online course and share my life experiences.   I aim to retain my curiosity as an octogenarian who remains intrigued by the up-to-the-minute opportunities which become available day by day.

 

Intelligence Squared is considered the world’s leading forum for online debate and intelligent discussion.  This medium recently staged a lively discussion around the role that Facebook plays in influencing public opinion.    Two contriubtors spoke in favour of the motion “Is Facebook Damaging Society” and two people spoke against the it.

Let’s think about this topic

How much thought have you given to the role that Facebook is playing in influencing society today?   My belief is that the results of recent elections has demonstrated the powerful role played by this social medium in influencing public opinion

Writing in July 2019 my hunch is that the election of  Donald Trump as well as the Brexit vote, both of which took place in 2016, were heavily influenced by information gleaned from Facebook accounts.    Potential swing voters were identified by an analysis of personal information accumulated by a custom built app.   The information gleaned was passed on to those with the capacity to target the relevant individuals, thus influencing their voting behaviour.

The Good and the not so Good

Having just listened to this online debate hosted by Intelligence Squared I have become even more aware of the potential of Facebook’s power for both good and evil.   How do we control this monolith so that its capacity to educate, to stimulate business growth and to connect people can be encouraged?   Whilst malevolent information gathering can be controlled.    Some measures need to be established to prevent data accumulated from Facebook profiles being used to manipulate public opinion for the nefarious ends of malign forces.

Following Trump’s Election

The enquires necessitated by the election of the Trump presidency has established the need for some serious monitoring systems to guide the use of personal data.  Some changes have already been implemented.   Many thousands of employees have been taken on by Facebook to monitor every contribution made minute by minute on its site.   Enormous teams have been assembled to peruse every new post in a multiplicity of the world’s languages.   A team of 30 000 employees are checking every fresh contribution made on the Facebook site to ensure it obeys the implementation of new rules.  Mark Zuckerberg has been receptive to the backlash of public opinion and has agreed to play a major role in monitoring all postings.

Is an Ethical Code Possible?

I am asking myself whether it is possible to determine an ethical code around monitoring the 2.2 billion users of Facebook.    How can we possibly delineate criteria for judging items of potential erosion of values, or provocative interpretations?    Is it possible to find an ethics committee to agree on the criteria for what is and what is not moral and ethical?

The power of Facebook

Have you ever ruminated on the power and responsibilities of Mark Zuckerberg?  In the entire history of mankind, has there ever been an individual as powerful as this man?    The Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Kings of Colonial Constituencies were not able to spread information, garner opinions and influence the masses of people in the powerful manner in which Facebook can manipulate its followers today.

There are more Facebook users than there are Christians living in the World.   In fact in some sectors of society the term Facebook is used as a synonym for the Internet.

A Monitoring Board has been proposed

It seems that Zuckerberg and his Facebook acolytes have been made aware that a monitoring system is essential if public faith in their product is to be maintained.     Suggestions around creating a new board of 40 members to adjudicate published information has been mooted.   This board has been likened to the Supreme Court of Justice

Whether or not this analogy is realistic is doubtful.   The Supreme Court monitors the behaviour of 364 million people living in the USA.   Facebook will have to oversee the data of 2.2 billion people living in countries all around the world.

Positive Research Potential

There is a potential for scientific progress in the understanding of human motivation offered by the rich sets of data recorded by Facebook.  The masses of personal information collected could be a force for some exciting new types of research into human behaviour.   There is a growing body of research from a wide range of different disciplines like psychology, sociology and social anthropology which are now deriving useful information from social networks.  The potential of this wide range of opportunities is yet to be evaluated, but the prospect of enriching our understanding of human behaviour is exciting.   Data is a powerful new tool for the development of specialised scientific concepts within the field of the Social Sciences.

Let us hope that the tremendous potential of modern scientific techniques can be utilised for the betterment of society, rather than the blind manipulation of Facebook users.

To listen to the debate you can go here

 

 

I had a new experience today.    Sarah McKay teaches online courses about Neuroscience.   As a past student I was invited to a zoom meeting to share my experiences in applying her teachings in the work environment..

In these an online courses Sarah teaches coaches the basic neurological principles behind behaviour change.   Once the students have acquired this knowledge, the coaches are empowered to motivate their clients by sharing with them the underlying psychological and neurological principles of behaviour change.   You can read about the course here

What is a Zoom Meeting

I am not going to presume that all my readers are familiar with what a zoom meeting is all about.   Those of you who are familiar with the concept and the experience can skip the next paragraph!

A Zoom meeting  is held on the internet.   The initiator invites participants to join the meeting by sending an online email link together with the date and time of the proposed gathering.   If recipients wish to join the meeting, they do not need to reply, they merely note the time and date and log in at the appropriate instant.   Meetings can be held with just two people, or with scores of participants.

Today’s Meeting

It was 8 o’clock in the morning for me in South Africa.   For Sarah in Australia, it was just getting dark.  Online were two women from Belgium, which is more or less my time zone!

Contributions from Belguim

One of the ladies from Belgium was a teacher trying to revolutionise the conservative schooling system in Brussels.   When I heard about her ambitions and her progressive ideas, I was able to suggest that she takes a look at Ken Robinson’s TED talk.   Here is a brilliant presentation by Ken on bringing creativity into the school curriculum.   It has had over 3 million views:

Ingrid lives in Belgium.  She spoke about the work she does with Ear Acupuncture and the healing of emotional trauma.   She told us how she applied needles in the ear, which enables her to help her patients reduce anger, anxiety and trauma.

Amrish from India

Amrith from India was the next person to introduce himself when he came online during his lunch break.   He had completed Sarah’s course many years ago but still remained in touch with the teacher who had enriched his practice of alternative therapy.   He was impressive in describing the relief he had given to his clients who suffered from both physical and emotional challenges.

Grace from South Africa

Of course, I was also given the opportunity to share my shenanigans with the assembled participants in the Zoom Room.   I recounted my experiences with facilitating Couscous Ageing for Seniors.   In these 2 hour discussion groups, participants are made aware of the neurological background of the ageing process.  This knowledge and understanding help them devise a methodology for maintaining and building their cognitive reserve.   The non-negotiable importance of the maintenance of  physical fitness is emphasised.  In addition, techniques for building emotional resilience form a large part of the discussion.

Sarah’s Contribution

Sarah shared with us some of her accumulated wisdom.   She had been participating in an Australian TV program in which Octogenarians and Nonagenarians were being interviewed.   This series aimed to glean information about successful ageing.   Emerging from her experience with this group, Sarah suggested that a mind of curiosity may be the critical quality that helps those in the latter decades of their life remain involved and committed in the ever changing contemporary environment.

Striking a receptive chord.

I agreed with her hypothesis.   I have always taken pride in my belief that curiosity is one of my positive characteristics.    Sarah jogged my memory when she made this comment.

Photocopying was the latest in technology then

I recalled the era when photocopying machines first arrived.   I had taken my notes to a photocopy shop to have the minutes of the school committee meeting printed for the attendees, and I wondered, why does the assistant not ask me what my material is all about.    Is he not interested in what I am copying? My curious mind would continue, “If I were an assistant doing his job, I would want to know what is written on the page as well as the reason the customer needing this material.”

I had never seen a computer screen

Another early memory popped into my mind.   I recalled going to reserve a long distance bus ride from Cape Town to Johannesburg.   It was at the time when businesses were just starting to use computers to enhance their services.  My curiosity was aroused.  I wanted to view the screen.  However, all I could see was the back of the monitor. I had never even had sight of a computer screen and could only imagine what the assistant was viewing.   I can still sense my frustration, my curiosity was not satisfied.   I could not have sight of the screen.

Where is my curiosity taking me?

You may consider the above examples somewhat trivial.   But I am curious, and that is why I am starting to explore the methodology of sharing my accumulated knowledge and life experiences with online learners.

The latest initiative

I am planning to complement the face to face monthly meetings I have been running for the past 12 years, with some opportunities offered by current technology in the form of online tuition and zoom meetings!  I plan to offer guidance and advice to those in the middle years about a lifestyle which will allow them to build cognitive reserve, maintain their physical fitness and develop their resilience for coping with the emotional challenges of their life.

I need your help!

Anyone who is reading this blog and has an idea what they might like to learn within my area of expertise is welcome to place suggestions in the Comment Box.    I would love to hear from you!

 

 

Do you remember when you had  to “Keep up with the Joneses?”  It was a serious challenge during the early years of my marriage when the lifestyle of Minimalism had not yet entered the psyche of my cultural group.

Today we need to keep up with technology, a challenge which sadly can only be approximated.   To remain in touch with the consistent developments and changes even in one’s own niche, be it business, the professions, or technology, is indeed a full time job in itself.

Introducing the Screenome

I was fascinated to learn two related new words which have now filtered into our contemporary language.   For sometime I have been familiar with the concept of the genome which describes the individual set of chromosomes possessed by each individual.    And now, this word has morphed into a Screenome.   (At this moment I note that my computer software is telling me that Screenome is misspelt!)

Screenomics

Screenomics describes the individual activities of any one person which may be recorded on the multiple screens on which he or she has worked during the day.

Researchers analysed the screenshots taken every few minutes, from several dozen people who had consented to such recordings. These threads showed that “people switched from one screen activity to another continually, every 20 seconds on average, and rarely spent more than 20 minutes uninterrupted on any one activity, even a full length movie.”

Applications

Doing some research, I have just learned I can subscribe to a service which will analyse my screen time.   I gather this software would be used in a business environment.  It would allow an employer to scan the activities of his employee and note precisely what he has been doing with his time.   George Orwell’s prognostications of Big Brother seem to have arrived.

An interesting article in the New York Times entitled “‘Screen Time’ is over”.    Here is a link:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/31/health/screen-time-mental-health-screenome.html   It describes the challenges of interpreting research in this area.   There is an inherent problem to this type of investigation because of the difficulty of finding a control group.  Where can you find a group of educated people who do not use (and abuse) screen time?

My own Screen

Internet searches

I decided to do a little bit of research on my own screen usage and have calculated that I browsed 123 websites yesterday.   I have not done an analysis of these sites.    I have not calculated whether these links tied up with my interest in mindfulness, or meditation, or politics, or ageing well, or cognitive decline, or neuroplasticity, or cognitive reserve.

Incoming emails

However, what I have done is an analysis of the 61 emails I received yesterday.   It is staggering to realise that 36 of these incoming emails were on topics related to self-improvement.   It does sound like a bit of an obsession when evaluated by this methodology.  Within this category, 10 were offers were related to the improvement of my Writing Skills, and 15 on what I will term Lifestyle improvement.    The remaining groups were information on Neuroscience, Coaching, Mindfulness, Ageing and Politics.

Opportunities for self-analysis

I have often been asked by acquaintances how I spend my time on the computer.   In the past, I have not been able to answer them.   Now, I have some hard insights into my own behaviour!

This indeed has come as quite a revelation.   It has given helped me to understand myself better!   I knew I had a high degree of curiosity, was always looking for opportunities to increase my knowledge in areas of interest.  However, to learn, I had actually received 36 opportunities in one day to raise my awareness in topics of interest comes as a fascinating and insightful discovery!

Earning Potential

While I am somewhat ambiguous about how I can derive an income on the internet, the temptation is there.   Eight of the incoming emails were offerings of information on how I can monetise my blog going forward.    In investigating this area of earning, I have been amazed to discover how much money is made by those who have mastered the techniques of deriving a passive income stream from ongoing internet offerings.

The remaining incoming emails I classified as Jewish Interest, Existential Threats, Bridge, Politics, General Interest and Social Media.

Human behaviour and Research

Since my study of Psychology in the 1950s, I have always been fascinated by the scientific methodology of research in this field.   Intelligence testing was the first human capacity to receive scientific validations with Binet’s work in 1904 as the creator of the first IQ Test.   Subsequently, tests of personality and emotional intelligence have become essential tools for selection in the army, the police force and private industry.    Following on further human characteristics have been measured and include artistic ability, spiritual quotients, and mindfulness; as well as many tests of the sensory modalities of sight and hearing.   And now we have screenomics!

How would you feel if your boss was able to measure your screenome?

 

Some problems mankind has had to cope with since time immemorial, including famine, plague and sickness.   Yuval Harari in Homo Deus argues coherently from this premise.   However in his recent book, The Better Angels of our Nature, Steven Pinker eloquently describes the comparatively peaceful times in which we live in the 21st century.   Per capita, there are fewer threats to personal well being than have ever existed in the past.

Indeed, I have personally been influenced positively by Pinker’s arguments, and have taken much comfort from his detailed comparative analysis of the eradication of famine as well as the reduction in conflict at the present time.    Plague has been eliminated except for minor intermittent episodes.

Today’s Challenges

However, there are two existential challenges around today which need to be on the conscience of all grandparents – the problems created by plastic pollution and the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.

This morning I attended a lecture by Professor Peter Ryan who is involved with the Fitzpatrick Institue of Research at the University of Cape Town.   He offered us a vivid picture of the research that he has done whilst supervising both masters and doctoral students.

He cut an elegant figure as he took the stage for his presentation.   Whilst his feet were bare, his nicely-fitting t-shirt together with causal draw-string pants, created an apt image of minimalism for a man talking about plastic pollution!

I found his opening comments alerted my attention when he announced to the audience, “What you are about to hear may well be different to what you expected!”

Plastic Pollution

Peter shared with us the fact he had been playing with plastic for a long time.   He illustrated and endorsed this statement as he went into the history of the aggregation of plastic waste and his team’s efforts to control it.  He has been actively researching  the damage that plastic pollution has created since it’s introduction in the early 1960s

Yes, I was born into an era before plastics were developed.  We managed with paper packets in my youth.   I  recall that when plastic bags first became part of our shopping experience, we would wash them out after the first use, and reuse them multiple times.  Maybe that is something we should think about doing once again!

A time before Pollution!

I also recall the first time I ever heard the word ‘pollution.’   It must have been the late sixties when my children were in conversation with some American youngsters who had accompanied their parents on a sabbatical to this country from Philadelphia in the USA

“You know,” they said, “you should not throw things out of your car as that will cause pollution!”   At that time pollution was not part of my everyday vocabulary.  So this concept came as quite a shock to me.   Can anyone remember when we actually did throw things out of the car window when disposing of waste matter?

Plastics

Professor Ryan showed us some haunting pictures of dead sea birds photographed adjacent to a range of plastic objects.   This matter had been found in the stomachs of dead birds which had been washed ashore.  Often scores of bottle tops and assorted materials were part of the collection of man-made products retrieved from these deceased birds.

Other photos of sea creatures enmeshed in plastic string or netting forced me to contemplate the agonies experienced by sea animals due to mankind’s inability to dispose of his waste in a manner which was respectful of the natural habitat.

It would be difficult to live without plastic wrapping today.   One of its main benefits is its ability to preserve certain foods.  It is cheaper than glass to manufacture.  Without plastic, the production of fruit and vegetables would need to be increased putting further strain on the earth’s resources.

Carbon Emissions

The surprise came when after presenting such startling evidence of the damage plastic has created to our oceans and our sea animals, Professor Ryan went on to let us know that a different man-made problem was even more worrying.   He reminded the audience that we may have already passed the time of no return due to the pumping of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.   Many authorities believe that the melting of icebergs, the consequent rising of the oceans, the floods and droughts affecting more and more parts of the world, are all the irreversible symptoms of a dire future for the inhabitants of planet earth.

Youth Activism

Greta Thurnberg at age 16 has made a name for herself internationally for castigating political leaders for neglecting to pass legislation limiting the emission of noxious gasses.   Due to her leadership, 1.66 million people in 133 countries participated in demonstrations in major cities around the world earlier this year.   Their aim was to urge the world’s leaders to take the needs of future generations into account when making political decisions.

Senior Activism

Have you thought about what you would like to do to ensure that your descendants enjoy the earth’s natural resources as much as you do?     Will your grandchildren be able to enjoy nature walks, mountain climbs and beach strolls in an unpolluted environment?

Maybe you would like to make some suggestions about practical steps which could be undertaken by senior people.     The Comment Box below is awaiting your contribution.

O800 444 426 is the number to dial.   It is the international phone number for South African residents which allows them to communicate free of charge with Apple Support on a telephonic land line

The Problem

I had landed myself in a situation in which Apple had deducted hundreds of rand per month from my credit card.   Many email complaints yielded no response.  Things were getting out of hand. I decided to confront the issue first thing in the morning; the time my energy levels are at their peak!

My Weekly Visit

It was a Tuesday, the day on which I entertain my seven-year-old granddaughter.   We share many regular activities, including baking cookies, playing snakes and ladders as well as ball and racket games, participating in creative crafting activities, going to the park and attending the local gym where Mishka loves to swim.   But on this particular afternoon, I needed a rest and was meeting some resistance when requesting a half hour to lie down and close my eyes.  I decided to throw my principles to the wind and downloaded the app Colorfy onto my iPad.  This would keep Mishka entertained for half an hour.   A little bribery sometimes needs to be resorted to in order for me to have some brief ‘time-out!’

An App with Conditions

The app offered a free seven-day trial, and monthly payments were required after the trial period.   I made an irrevocable effort to delete the app within the required time and was quite certain I fulfilled this task.    Notwithstanding the fact  I had activated the deletion process, I noted a number of emails in my inbox from Apple.  Checking on my bank statement the relevant deductions had been made.    By the time I had totally absorbed this information, I had three instalments taken off my account.  Something definitely needed to be done about this.

Whilst I had ticked the box on the email in which I was invited to complain, no response had been received from Apple.  I had tried various techniques of making contact with them over the internet, without success.   I visited the local Apple shop and was offered a phone number for free international land line calls.

The Solution

The first thing I did this morning was to spend 45 minutes in consultation with two different Apple consultants in order to sort the matter out.   Living in South Africa I am familiar with a less than perfect service when speaking on the phone at a ‘help desk’, so I was pleasantly surprised with the professionalism and friendliness of the Apple representatives.

Working with Vicki

After identifying myself, Vicki told me that we could work together on our iPads and she would send me a message so that I could grant permission for our devices to work together.   Unfortunately, I did not receive this message so we had to work out an alternative methodology.   Some further problems with passwords slowed us down but ultimately Vicki ascertained that I did not have a subscription for Colorfy recorded on my account.   So she would have to put me through to Accounts.

Working with Yuki

A further delay of five minutes and Yuki came on the line to assist me.   I was fascinated by Yuki’s accent but did not feel it was appropriate to ask her any personal questions when the purpose of my call was to request a reversal of the funds which had been taken from my account as well as a cancellation of my subscriptions.

Yuki did eventually sort out my problem.   She reassured me that not only would my account be debited but my subscription would be cancelled.   In addition, she would email me information about how to cancel subscriptions on my iPad to ensure that I would not have this problem in the future.   I was fascinated to find that Yuki is a Pilipino – hence my difficulty in understanding her accent!

And, the Conclusion

In conclusion, I have mixed feelings about Apple.   During this investigation, I determined that there was no subscription recorded, yet I had three deductions from my bank statement.  When Yuki asked me how much had been deducted from my account, she accepted my word for the amount.  It appeared to me that she did not verify the amount I quoted as she hastily announced she had made arrangements for the repayment.

My main aim had been achieved.   I was promised a repayment as well as the termination of my subscription.   It was just a pity that I needed to expend so much time and effort to achieve this solution to a situation which should not have occurred in the first place!

 

 

 

Wisdom

If you look at the Merriam-Wester dictionary, you will find the word Wisdom defined as:  “The ability to discern inner qualities and relationships.”    Somehow, I have the feeling that there is more to Wisdom than described here, so I decided to make this concept the theme for this month’s meeting on Conscious Ageing.

The six participants were offered the opportunity to discuss in pairs what they understand by the term Wisdom, to make some notes, and then bring their ideas back to the group.   And, here is some of the feedback which emerged!

As it materialised, there was a considerable amount of conformity in their findings.   Wisdom, the participants concluded was found in a fair number of personal qualities.    Such characteristics as having an open mind, being non-judgemental, having gratitude for what one has, accepting responsibility for one’s relationships, being a good listener, as well as possessing both humility and tolerance, were all part of the wisdom concept.

Participants felt that it is vital to have respect for the views of others.   This respectfulness did not necessarily require agreement but demanded an openness and a tolerance for ideas differing from their own.

Populism

The lack of tolerance for views of others has become a critical part of the current political discourse.   A semi-retired professor of Political Philosophy, Leonard Suransky, is offering our local University of the Third Age a course on the rise of Populism, a movement which is evident on both the left and on the right.  These extreme views result from feelings of insecurity and a lack of respect for the ideas of the other.

Many political analysts view Donald Trump as the arch-Populist at this time.  America is followed by many European countries for the emergence of Populist leaders, while in South Africa we have the Economic Freedom Front on the Left being led by Julius Malema and the extreme Right-wing Freedom Front Plus party at the other end of the spectrum.

Tribalism

Professor Robert Wright, who is a visiting professor of science and religion at Union Theological Seminary in New York, has teamed up with Tricycle Magazine to run an online course on Tribalism.   The concepts of Tribalism and Populism have much in common, and Wright with his interest in Psychology, Buddhism and Politics is teaching his ideas of how to neutralise present extremism with an understanding of Evolutionary Psychology, Mindfulness and Meditation.   The course has just started, and I recommend you have a look at it here:  https://learn.tricycle.org/?utm_source=trikehdr&_ga=2.140385459.1430994263.1558263600-1994547164.1558263600

My personal belief is that Wisdom has a great deal in common with both Conscious Ageing and Sageing.   Both of these world-views have been introduced into the lexicon of ideas during the past couple of decades.   An era in which there has been a growing backlash against Ageism – the view which promotes the idea that the greater your chronological age, the more dependent you become on society. Another feature of Ageism is the belief that after a specific arbitrarily defined birth date, you are not capable of learning new material.

One of my motivations for running groups on Conscious Ageing is to encourage people that you can maintain your capacity to learn new ideas and new concepts until the day you die.   To accept this outlook may well be considered part of Wisdom and encouraged me to share with the participants two new concepts I learned while surfing the internet this past weekend.

Mansplaining and Digital Dementia

Mansplaining defines the attitude of a male when he describes condescendingly to his female acquaintance, the meaning of a word, a statement or an idea.   I believe this is a  useful addition to my vocabulary and I am just waiting for an opportunity to say to a man, “You know; you are ‘mansplaining’ me, and I take offence to your attitude!”

Digital Dementia is a scary contemporary diagnosis for the situation when a child loses his capacity for emotional control, or whose cognitive abilities are prejudiced because of an overexposure to the screen or the different devices available in today’s environment.   The increase in the number of children with both behavioural problems and learning disabilities is profound. Parents need to be educated in ways in which they can limit their children’s screen time, as a deterrent to having the developing brain’s neurone development of their growing offspring’s retarded. It is essential that children have plenty of physical activity for developing neurons to be adequately stimulated.    Static time, staring at a screen should be limited, and the amount of time recommended will depend on the age and the needs of the child.

Sageing

I believe that Sageing is an integral part of both Wisdom and Conscious Ageing.   Sageing International   www.sage-ing.org   has grown from a seed planted by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in 2004.    It promotes some concrete activities around creating a vibrant and flourishing senior lifestyle; as well as training leaders to connect with others through programs such as Wisdom Circles.

Let’s hear your ideas

Anybody who has read this article, reached the end, and has interest in further pursuing the concepts of Wisdom, Sageing, or Conscious Ageing can contact me through the comment section on my website, And; I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Perusing the daily newspaper yesterday morning, I was intrigued by the background story about a 5K walk due to take place in Cape Town the following morning.  It was being held by an International Charity which counsels people with suicidal tendencies.   This annual event is part of a worldwide movement allowing people to identify with those suffering from such serve trauma that ending their life appears to them to be the only solution.

My Personal Motivation

Some personal motivations for participating in this walk, starting in the dark at 6.30 in the morning entered my mind.   In my lineage, there is a strong genetic predisposition to mood disorder.   A number of my antecedents, including my mother, decided to prematurely end their own life, a factor which was dominated my awareness when confronting my own ongoing personal challenges.

Then there was a rather strange negative reason driving me to make an effort to support this worthy cause.   I had been unfairly denied the opportunity to participate in a sporting competition over the weekend.  Some form of justification could be made in being forced to remain on the sidelines, as I now had the opportunity to support a wonderful cause which had counselled over 20 000 people with suicidal tendencies.

The starting time for this event was 30 minutes before sunrise.   The symbolism of walking from the darkness into the light caught my imagination.   This transformation was a metaphor not only for saving a life but also the positive emotional changes which happen when a potential suicide victim accepts psychological counselling and is assisted in seeing their life journey more positively.

Getting Registered for the Event

Having decided to take part in the walk, I was presented with the challenge of entering the event online.   While the newspaper article explicitly encouraged members of the public to involve themselves in this public-spirited activity, the report did not contain any information about the online registration procedure.   I phoned the newspaper which featured the article, to learn that the staff do not work on a Friday.  The write-up appeared in the Friday morning edition of a publication which does not publish on Saturday, so the team have Fridays off work!  As the walk was the following day, this presented a problem.

The young lady of Independent News recognising my earnest desire for this vital contact information offered to do some research and then to phone me back.   True to her word, she contacted me twenty minutes later with details of the website www.darknessintolight.ie   I made my donation online and was all set to go.

Getting up in the Dark

It was a strange feeling getting up at 5.30 on a Saturday morning.   Past experiences of making such an early start would have been to catch a flight or to leave before the traffic intensifies.   In this instance, it is to perform a task of compassion before the light of day emerges!

Reaching my destination, a crowd of several hundred people had already gathered in anticipation of the 5K walk.   On the dot of 6.30, the organisers offered an inspiring talk about the work of this initiative, its worldwide influence,  and the benefits of many families who had reacted positively to the psychological support they had received from psychological counselling.    The suggestion was that the first kilometre is walked in silence, allowing each participant to tune into their own feelings and their personal motivation for undertaking this exercise.   This was profoundly meaningful for me as I reviewed my relationship with my mother and had the feeling that she would be proud of me for undertaking this challenge.

Positive Interactions

The bonus of this outing was getting into a conversation with Gerette, a delightful teacher of High School English.  She introduced me to her husband, who was completing the walk in a wheelchair. This had been his means of transport since having been involved in a motorcycle accident while in high school.   Lukas, their son, had accompanied his father for the first 4 K’s of the walk, but decided to join his mother and me for the last stretch, as his father was going too fast in his wheelchair!   I chatted to Dad about his speediness after the walk, and he explained that he has less hard work to do when moving more quickly as the momentum kept him going with less manual effort.

I felt a deep sense of gratitude on the completion of this effort and wore my new bright yellow t-shirt for the rest of the day.   This allowed me further opportunity to spread the word about the significance of “From Darkness into light”

 

There was a time, not so long ago, when words like Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and ‘the spectrum’ were not part of the everyday vocabulary.    Today you hear such cynical comments as, “If you are a grandparent and have not at least one child on the Autistic Spectrum, then you do not really qualify for the job!

Similarly, concepts such as Transgender, or LGBTI were little known and certainly not spoken about when I was growing up.  So I was mildly shocked and amused last month when two of my friends, with whom I have had a relationship for 60 years, visited Cape Town from overseas. One friend travelled South from the USA, and her sister flying West from Australia.   Each of these mature ladies spoke quite openly and acceptingly, about having a grandchild who has recently come out as transgender.

Family in Transition

Consequently, it was with some degree of pleasurable anticipation that I attended a documentary film last night entitle Family in Transition.   Both the Director, Ofir Trainin, and one of the protagonists Amit Tzuk attended the Cape Town premier and interacted with the audience after the screening of this award-winning Israeli film.

The film opens with a celebratory scene at the wedding of Amit and Gilat displaying the joy and anticipation of their new marriage.  They had been friends since the age of 15, and this was the culmination of their close relationship and commitment to each other. As the story unfolds, the audience is made aware of the loving relationship between the parents and the four delightful children they have brought into the world and reared with love, devotion and positivity.   The off-spring consist of one son and three daughters all of whom are depicted as warm well-adjusted youngsters who enjoy strong family ties.

Coming Out

Some time into the presentation, the audience is made aware of Amit’s feeling of alienation in his own body and his need to transition as a woman.   With amazement, the audience learns of the tremendous degree of acceptance Amit achieves, not only from Galit but also her children who refer to her in the third person as “she” without any trace of embarrassment or unhappiness – in fact with total acceptance.   At a coming out party we also witness the acceptance of the couple’s social circle – it seems as if only the older generation struggle with the situation.

There is a delightful scene in which one of the daughters of about 12 years, lying on her bed, is introspecting about her parents’ having a disagreement.    She displays uncommon maturity when she concludes, “I don’t know why they bother to quarrel, because they always end up agreeing with each other in the end.”

Challenges of Change

We learn of the struggle Amit endures whilst having hormone treatment during the transitioning process.   Despite the frequent spells of tears, Galit is at all times caring and supportive.   About a year later it is time for the surgical transformation.   This operation requires a visit to Thailand, and we witness the anguish of the children when their parents leave to take this trip.   When they see Amit again, she will be fully transformed to her gender of choice.   The children will have two mothers.

The trauma of the operation is manifest when Amit refuses to take the medication she has been prescribed by the Doctor.   Galit remains a caring companion, frequently offering foot massages and tender words of consolation and caring.

Back Home Again

On returning to the family in Nahariya, in the North of Israel, Galit and Amit have a second wedding ceremony.   A glamorous affair where they take the role as stars of the event in identical white dresses adorned with gold embroidery.   It is a joyous and happy celebration of the new status of the devoted couple.

Beginnings of a Reorientation

When we witness Amit’s anguish over Galit’s daily walks with a lady friend, we realise there is trouble brewing.  Ultimately Galit feels she cannot maintain her place within the family – she needs to be her own person, have her own space.  After a difficult divorce Galit enters a lesbian relationship, and Amit subsequently also partners with a lady who accompanied her to South Africa for this screening.

Behind the Scenes

Ofir, who was not only the director but also the producer and cinematographer of this film,  was together with Amit after the screening and answered questions whilst filling in the missing links about this thought-provoking story and its production as a documentary film.

We were reassured that Galit and Amit had developed a healthy working relationship with each other.   The children indeed considered themselves lucky to have four mothers!

Afterword

The audience displayed their appreciation for Amit’s openness to share her story.   Whilst at times she admitted the intrusiveness of the camera was discomforting during the making of the film, she felt that the production performed a necessary function in educating the public about the profound changes which sometimes needed to be taken in order to achieve an authentic lifestyle.

Galit helps Children

Galit has now written some well-received short stories, in Hebrew, for the benefit of children.   She draws on her life experience to educate other families about the rationale for transformation, and her work assists those in the helping professions who counsel people of all ages who deal with the issues of sex change.

It was rewarding and a great privilege to have heard this intimate first-hand story about a caring couple seeking meaning in their lives.   Their bravery in discussing this personal experience is appreciated as a service to the public in making us aware of the new possibilities for contemporary alternate lifestyles.   Some lifestyles were socially denigrated in former years,  but now many previously unaccepted social unions are considered the new norm.

 

 

There is no doubt that we live in a world today, Saturday 27th April 2019 at 12h15, in which we suffer from information overload.   Whatever your perspective on an issue, there will always be multiple examples of expert evidence to confirm your beliefs.

I am not sure if it is my chronological age or the era in which I live, that has caused me to suffer, for the first time in my life, from a degree of existential angst.   A strong feeling of what can I personally do to fight the decisions of politicians who continue to feather their own nest at the expense of the future health of the planet. Their grandchildren and great-grandchildren will live on an Earth where the quality of life has been compromised or even jeopardised if they do not realistically deal with the ecological threats of today

Pinker and Enlightenment Now

It was with some relief that I was internalising some of the reassurances offered by Steven Pinker’s “Enlightenment Now,” subtitled The case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.   I was starting to be persuaded in his latest book that the average person was worrying too much about the potential disasters of climate change.

He has followed up his optimistic view of the benefits of a contemporary lifestyle which he elaborated on in a heartening exposition in his previous book, “The Better Angels of our Nature.”   In this previous work, Pinker explores the everyday safety in which we live today, as opposed to in the past eras.   I was happily reassured by his rationale and the evidence he brought to the table.    Pinker persuaded me that life today is safer than it has ever been, and the percentage of the world’s population actively engaged in a war situation is proportionately lower than in any past era.

My fair in “Enlightenment Now” was shattered however then my monthly blog arrived from Jules Evans ( whose website you can find at www.philosophyforlife.org,) and his pessimistic, or potentially realistic, assessment entitled “Is Extinction Rebellion Self-Indulgent Therapy?”

David Attenborough

Evans described how shocked he was to listen this week to David Attenborough eloquently describe on the BBC, just how significant the current temperature changes have been in devastating the tranquillity of earth’s balance of nature.   The measurement of the atmosphere as 1 degree warmer, has resulted in wildfires in Australia and California, storms and floods in India, Mozambique, Mid-West USA, and Ottawa.   What Attenborough did not mention is that Cape Town, South Africa where I live, has suffered a drought the past few years which has resulted in water rationing becoming a ubiquitous feature of our everyday life.  Water restrictions for our gardens are now a permanent part of our horticultural management system, whilst the use of water in the household is strictly rationed and very expensive.   Washing dishes is a once a day operation, and daily showers are obsolete!

James Lovelock

Evans carries on to remind us what was said in 2008 by James Lovelock.   “Enjoy life whilst you can,” said Lovelock, “in 20 years global warming will hit the fan.”   Lovelock has been dispensing predictions from his one-man laboratory in an old mill in the South of England since the 1960s with consistent accuracy.    Whilst he may be a bit of a maverick, he is one of Britain’s most respected independent scientists.

Extinction Rebellion

For 10 days last week, thousands of activists unleashed strategic disorder in London to draw attention to the accelerating climate crisis. This coordinated effort was organised by Extinction Rebellion, a movement which was founded last year and is targeting the British Government to achieve net-zero greenhouse emission by the year 2030. More than 1,000 protesters submitted to arrest after barricading roads, bridges and other city landmarks.

Student Activist

The eloquent 16 year old Swedish Activist Greta Thurnberg addressed the crowds and in simple and persuasive language described what she sees as the role of her generation.   She said, “We have gathered here today because we have chosen the path we want to take.   Together we will make a difference.   The ecological crisis remains despite all the beautiful words.  The crisis has been ignored for decades.   The politicians and people of power have got away with not doing anything at all, but we will make sure they will not get away with it any longer.   Humanity now stands at a crossroads………………………”

Find out more

Steven Pinker, on the other hand, urges us, “to step back from the lurid headlines and prophecies of doom, which bring out the worst in our psychological biases.”   He believes that with the scientific knowledge at our disposal today, we will be able to control the malevolent forces of carbon dioxide which threatens to irrevocably pollute our environment.

Should you choose to read over 400 pages of Pinker’s positive rationale, together with the accompanying 75 graphs illustrating a thesis of continuous human improvements in living standards, you may be comforted by his perspective that mankind has overcome all the challenges of the past, so why should the environmental challenges of today be any different.   I would like to accept Pinker’s perspective, but am more inclined to vote with the young Swedish activist!