The Tea Chest

When I was a kid, I went on holiday with my family once and we stayed at a place in the West Country, UK.

The owner told us a story about a woman he knew who’d been a missionary in China all her life and had just come back to England. He was bemoaning the fact that all her possessions for shipment had fitted into a tea chest. He thought that it was incredibly sad that she had worked all her life with so little to show for it and my parents agreed.

‘Just one tea chest of things, after a lifetime of work,’ he kept saying.

I was perhaps about fourteen at the time, but this story has stuck in my mind over the years, probably because I wasn’t sure whether I agreed with the others about this even at the time.

There was something about the discipline involved in not collecting stuff or in making the choice to throw a lot of it away that rather impressed me.

I’ve got to say that I’m a work in progress where hoarding is concerned. My wife would certainly say that I’m a hoarder.

But I think I know the limitations of possessions pretty well.

One of my favourite self-quotes is, ‘More is not necessarily better,’ and that applies to everything but especially to music, I’ve found.

It’s amazing how the desire to embellish and vary can kill the emotion.

In architecture too.

But there are some possessions I’d rather not be without and maybe one should start from that end and work backwards.

My Petrof, for example, even if I don’t play it nearly enough at the moment.

What possessions would you rather not be without?

All good wishes for the Christmas season and for 2019.

May your life never become an endurance test….

Love

Richard

P.S.  I must give credit where due.  I was reminded of this story while reading a short post by Derek Sivers entitled Subtract.  Well worth the read!

Of Spaces and Objects

Anyone who watched Hsieh Su-Wei playing in the Autralian Open Tennis Championships at the beginning of the year shouldn’t find it in the least surprising that she knocked out the world number one Simona Halep at the Wimbledon championships.

What distinguishes her play from virtually any other tennis player on the circuit is that her tennis is not based on brute force but on intelligence.

She hits the ball where the other player isn’t.

To understand the importance of this, it is perhaps interesting to reflect a little on the way we perceive things.

Way back when we were hunter gatherers, I imagine that our main visual concern was objects, and in particular objects that moved. A space would not have been threatening. A moving animal might well have been. Or a source of food. Hence our vision historically more attuned to moving objects than still ones and our lack of concern over spaces.

Have you ever been behind a driver on the road who brakes every time there is a vehicle coming in the opposite direction ? This is particularly flagrant with a large vehicle like a lorry or a bus. The driver in this case is concentrating on the object rather than the space available, which is usually more than sufficient. If the driver was concentrating on the space on the road ahead, he would not even be braking.

The same thing happens when a vehicle slows down to turn right (left if you are in the UK). 99% of the time, the car behind will slow right down as well. The left side of the road may be completely clear and overtaking the car no problem at all, but the car stays behind the car turning off until the road is completely clear. No end of time is wasted because of this. Again, the driver behind is concentrating on the object and not the space available.

Now, I’m not an expert in tennis. But in the last couple of years, I have watched quite a lot of highlights of matches on YouTube. I don’t have a TV and life is too short to sit through two and three hour matches most of the time anyway.

But through watching these highlights, one thing becomes clear.

The person who usually wins the point is the one who gets the opponent to run. And this involves hitting the ball where the other person isn’t.

Which brings us back to Hsieh Su-Wei.

If I was coaching a female tennis player, I would look very closely at those matches in the Australian Open. As things stand, there are far too many women trying to play tennis like men. There’s a lot of bashing away from the baseline, hitting directly to the opponent, with no real strategy at work at all. It may have something to do with the fact that the majority of tennis coaches for women seem to be men. I don’t know.

But from my point of view, any repetitive rally back and forth hitting the ball as hard as possible to the other player is a pure waste of energy on the part of both players. Sure, one or other of the players will eventually make a mistake, but it’s a very energy inefficient way of winning a point. The error rate is usually too low for this to be a viable « strategy. » They are professional players, after all.

Hsieh Su-Wei doesn’t play tennis like a man. She is not a power player. She uses her intelligence, varies her shots and exploits spaces. Watching her play is a pure delight. She usually breaks a baseline power rally very quickly, after a couple of shots.

Some players have immense presence on court. Serena Williams, for example.

Remember that driver who kept braking every time he saw a truck coming the other way.

I see her opponents behaving in exactly the same way. It’s as if all they see is the tennis player – their respect or awe prevents them from seeing and exploiting the spaces.

Serena Williams is a very fit player indeed. But she isn’t the best mover about the court. And the times when people beat her are the times when they really get her to run about.

And it’s strange because afterwards, those same players who managed to beat her by using the spaces don’t seem to understand why they won and the next time, there they are bashing away at her from the baseline again and dumbfounded because it doesn’t work.

No one can trade power strokes from the baseline better than Serena Williams. The outcome is a foregone conclusion.

All this to underline the importance of watching spaces, even if our vision is more drawn to objects.

Have a great week.

And may your life never become an endurance test.

My Left Shoe

The famous shoe….

On a trip to Porto in the North of Portugal last month, I made the mistake of trying to go for a swim in the sea.

The Atlantic waves hit the shore there with terrific force. After all, there’s nothing between there and the East coast of America to stop them.

Now I’m a strong swimmer and trips to the seaside never go by without my swimming in the sea. But in this case, I must admit I hesitated.

I stood and watched the waves for some time on this particular afternoon. The sea seemed calmer than it had for a couple of days.

I chose my moment and launched myself forward.

I never got to swim.

The waves threw me about a bit and knocked me down unceremoniously.

It felt like a betrayal considering my privileged relationship with water.

I crawled out as best I could, but not before the sea had swallowed my left shoe.

An outrage!

Now this was my favourite pair of shoes.

I can walk, run, swim, do virtually anything in my Vivo Barefoot Ultras and they’re as light as anything. I think it’s great to be able to wash them easily too.

I wear them all the time.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I was to lose one.

A man who was walking his dog on the beach looked rather concerned as I emerged from the water. He talked to me in rapid Portuguese, which I don’t speak, and he didn’t speak any English.

I managed to communicate that I had lost a shoe.

And he managed to communicate, as our attempts at conversation continued, with some additional drawing in the sand thrown in, that I should return between 9 and 10 the following morning because that was when the waves would be at their strongest and that I should look on the shore to the north of the point where I had lost it.

The Beach….

So we did.

I can’t say that we really believed we would find it. The chances seemed very slim.

It was raining as we progressed along the beach and my wife and I walked for a while, inspecting jetsam brought in by the sea.

But suddenly, at a distance and in front of a group of rocks, I spied my shoe.

It was sitting proudly upright on the sand as if held out on the outstretched palm of the ocean.

There wasn’t even any sand in it.

I was overjoyed as you can imagine. It really made my day to be reunited with my shoe.

A lesson in humility and hope.

Have a great Ascension weekend.

Love

Richard


P.S. I saw the man later on the same day, so I was able to thank him properly for his help.

P.P.S. Associate Links!

Midnight Positivity Ritual

Unusual Cloud
© R Morgan

I know I’ve talked about thankfulness before, but I think it’s worth reminding you about it again.

Here’s a little video from Mindvalley with a twist that you might find useful:

The ‘Midnight Positivity Ritual’ – How To Make Gratitude Your Default Setting | Dr. Srikumar Rao

I must admit that I don’t actually do this myself before I go to bed.

But I do first thing in the morning and during the day whenever I can.

I can’t stress this enough:

Being thankful is probably the most important habit to get into if you want to develop a positive mindset.

You may think you’ve got nothing to be thankful for, but if you sit down for a moment, I’m sure you can come up with something.

And then something else.

And then….

And then….

And just being thankful once in a blue moon isn’t good enough. You need to make it a habit.

‘We are what we repeatedly do,’ as Aristotle said.

And it’s not enough to think thankful, you’ve got to feel it, as the good doctor in the video says.

You may start without much enthusiasm, but that will come if you keep it up.

And you may wonder to whom you should say that you’re thankful.

It can be God, the Force, Father Christmas, your life compagnon, your pet or even just yourself.

Just do it.

It will force you to look outwards rather than inwards.

It will put all your troubles into perspective.

And I guarantee you’ll feel happier about yourself and your life and those around you will be happier with you too.

Here’s the video link again:

The ‘Midnight Positivity Ritual’ – How To Make Gratitude Your Default Setting | Dr. Srikumar Rao

Have a great weekend.

May you life never become an endurance test!

Love

Richard

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The Tree of Life 3

© Richard Morgan

 

You may have seen the other two posts that I wrote about coconut oil on this site, The Tree Of Life and The Tree Of Life 2.

I just wanted to give you a heads-up about this article on BBC News:

Is Coconut Oil a Superfood?

The medical establishment has of late been trying to trash the idea that coconut oil is good for you.

Worse than butter for your heart, they say.

About the same as eating beef fat, they say.

The usual arrogance and ignorance.

So you’ll be pleased and reassured to read this article and see that an independent test comparing extra virgin coconut oil with extra virgin olive oil and unsalted butter proved the value of coconut oil in keeping ‘good’ HDL cholesterol up and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol down.

It beat the others with ease.

Here’s the link again.

Enjoy, and have a great weekend whatever you decide to eat….

May your life never become an endurance test!

Love

Richard

Talking in the Same Room

In a cabin on a ferry crossing the Channel

For the first seven years of our life together, my wife and I shared a one room studio apartment with a tiny kitchen and a bathroom.

There was a magnificent white cherry tree outside the window and a view over pasture that has now, unfortunately, been heavily built upon.

We didn’t have a great deal of money.

Fast forward to now.

We have more money.

We have a house with different floors and a number of rooms.

There is a small hedged garden which requires quite enough work, but not too much.

We are fortunate enough to live in the countryside with more cows than human beings.

Now here’s the thing:

In which abode do you think it was easier to communicate?

Answer: the studio.

If you only have one room, your interlocutor is obviously in the same room.

But the more rooms you have, the greater the chance that the person you want to talk to is in another room, on another floor, in the garden.

Communication becomes more complicated.

There is interference of all kinds: kitchen noise, bathroom noise, music, computers, mobile phones and so on.

There is more clutter in every sense of the word.

You have to repeat yourself a lot.

We actually enjoy staying at hotels and studios or taking cabins on ferries whilst travelling because it takes us back to those days when communication was simple and there was not a lot else in the room besides ourselves.

So my question to you is this:

What percentage of your conversations with your loved ones takes place in the same room?

If you feel frustrated because there is less than perfect communication with your partner or family, then this might be a place to start.

Particularly if you turn the mobile phone off.

May your life never become an endurance test!

Love

Richard

 

 

2018 and Manhole Covers

I’ve had several ideas for posts to kick off the new year but nothing seemed quite right until I saw this story on the BBC app:

http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-42685022/japan-s-elaborate-manhole-covers

I share this because I thought it was fascinating and I hope you do too.

There is something really encouraging about taking an everyday object that is disregarded and even despised and turning it into a work of art.

Sneaky Japanese!

And just at the end, we learn that they’ve been doing this for 40 years.

How come nobody else has cottoned on?

It’s a lesson to all of us.

Perhaps we too could take our everyday lives and turn them into works of art in this year of 2018….

Have a great year!

And may your life never become an endurance test!

Love

Richard

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!

Our 2017 Christmas Card

Here’s wishing you a pleasant hassle- and argument-free Christmas and a 2018 full of good health and positive thoughts.

The above is our Christmas card for this year, painted by my wife, Brigitte. For the last ten years, we’ve sent out cards with one of my photos on, so it’s a break with tradition. She’s a clever girl!

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our readers.

We’ve just broken the 30,000 visitor barrier with almost 40,000 pages consulted in the two years of this site’s existence.

We hope that the posts have stimulated you and helped make your life less of an endurance test.

Apparently, according to marketing experts, the title of the site lends itself to brand confusion.

Is it about exercise?

Is it about getting fit?

Is it about keeping it up for longer?

It doesn’t deliver what people expect, so I’m told.

I’ve been advised to change it.

However, for the moment we’ll go with the flow.

May your life never become an endurance test!

Love,

Richard

P.S. It’s Christmas. If you’ve enjoyed reading any or all of the posts on the site or been helped in any way, and you feel like making a contribution to keep the site running and put a smile on my face, then please by all means make a donation, however small. Just click on the button below:

No pressure!





Many thanks!

Deciding What to Talk About – and Not

Floor mosaïque of gladiators, Kourion, Cyprus, photo: © R. C.Morgan

Families are rarely simple.

And with Christmas fast approaching, we will all have another opportunity very soon to taste the unfortunate truth of this.

Some people – a small minority, I think – have supportive families, but for many of us, this is not the case.

So here’s a small suggestion.

Before you go back to see your parents or your parents-in-law, or your sisters and brothers or your cousins or whoever, take a moment to decide what you are willing to discuss and what you are not willing to discuss.

Sound calculating?

Maybe, but you’ll thank me for it.

It’s a question of survival, of self-care.

You don’t have to tell Mummy everything.

I’ll say it again.

You don’t have to tell Mummy everything.

This might come as a shock to some of you.

Perhaps you’ve always communicated everything with your parents, siblings etc.

This is perfectly ok if said parents are supportive and do not judge you.

If, however, you are secretly dreading another bout of sarcastic and belittling remarks, not to mention more arguments, then you owe yourself protection.

And the best way to do this is to decide what and what not to talk about.

If you are in a couple, then you must spend time with your other half making sure that you are on the same wavelength about this.

It’s no good not talking about that wonderful but expensive holiday you had in October that you haven’t told your parents about because they always complain that you go on holiday too much and anyway where do you get the money? – if your girlfriend blurts out what a wonderful time you both had in Botswana.

Get your stories straight and stick to them.

Believe me, this is a vital step towards self-preservation and if you’ve never tried it, then I urge you to do so.

It’s not a question of lying to people.

It’s a question of setting limits.

Are there things that you’d rather keep to yourself?

Then do so.

For example, perhaps you’ve recently become unemployed and need some time to get things sorted out without having confusing and unwanted careers advice from the whole family.

You don’t need to talk about it if you don’t want to.

Just be very clear about what you are going to say if Daddy asks you about work.

In my experience, many people and unfortunately many parents, take information given to them and use it to hurt you either instantly or later on.

Don’t ask me why.

I don’t have children.

And I can’t understand the point of having them if all you are going to do is judge and belittle them. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Shouldn’t you all be playing on the same team?

Instead, some parents are toxic.

So change the parameters.

Learn to say to yourself,’I don’t want to talk about that and I’m not going to.’

If you just talk about the things you feel reasonably comfortable with, then this Christmas might actually turn out to be the simplest and least fraught with friction for a long long time.

May your life never become an endurance test!

Love,

Richard

Breakfast with a butterfly, Zakynthos.
Breakfast with a butterfly, Zakynthos.

Anyone for Tennis?

I share one thing in common with my mother at least. (Well, probably a few others….)

I enjoy watching tennis.

At least for the moment.

As the game evolves though, that may change.

It used to be a rather civilized game, but it’s starting to become as barbaric as any other professional sport.

Those announcements of players.

Aren’t they confusing tennis players with boxers?

Why all this building up of players into super heroes? Why is being human no longer enough?

As super heroes, the players are something of a disappointment.

For one thing a super hero should set an example and not behave like a three year old.

Is the behaviour of players on court now an example to youngsters?

Tantrums, racquet smashing, invectives against umpire and linesmen.

The undisguised shouting of foul language.

The absurd clenching of fists after each and every point. Where did this come from? It looks completely stupid.

Even demanding more applause from the crowd when the player feels he’s played particularly well.

Interesting that you don’t see the women demand more applause from the crowd.

Something I’ve never understood though.

Why do the spectators applaud after each point?

It seems ridiculous to me.

Does a secretary receive applause after each letter typed?

Does a teacher get a pat on the back after every lesson?

Then why applaud tennis players for simply doing their job for a few seconds? Crazy.

I can understand applause for an exceptional point.

But as things stand, there’s nowhere to go when the exceptional occurs. Apart from more noise.

But don’t get me started on the behaviour of the crowd, which sometimes borders on the intolerable (2017 Australian Open for example).

Yes, we’re a long way away from cucumber sandwiches and the importance of participation.

But that, as they say, is progress.

May your life never become an endurance test.

Love

Richard