Saturday, 4 January 2014

Yes, money does matters ~ to all of us!

Many of us are oddly uncomfortable about money, and either through embarrassment or evasion readily dismiss it as unimportant, even as a subject of bad taste.  This attitude is inherent in the slang term, 'filthy lucre'.  This is clearly crazy, as we all need money to get by, as a means of exchange for food, goods and services, and a roof over our heads. 

Difficult it may be, but in my view English novelist Anthony Trollope got it exactly right when he said:
“If honest men did not squabble for money, in this wicked world of ours, the dishonest men would get it all, and I do not see that the cause of virtue would be much improved”.
This quote is from the novel "Barchester Towers".  Trollope gives the line to Archdeacon Dr Theophilus Grantly in his conversation with Septimus Harding in Chapter XIV,  The New Champion.

Trollope (1815 - 1882) knew all about financial troubles first-hand: during his childhood both parents suffered one financial eclipse after another until his mother turned to writing and thereafter made a good living from it!  

Barchester Towers is one of a series of books set in Victorian England entitled the  "Chronicles of Barsetshire".  Although it is many years since I have read them I highly recommend them for holiday reads, or at any other time for that matter.  The world of Barsetshire is chock full of human warmth, as well as coldness, exactly the characters that we both love and hate, with all the attendant tensions and dilemmas of real life, from the crashingly mundane to the highest of moral questioning.  Trollope wisely knew that in life the best answers any of us arrive at are likely to lead us on to other trials which are equally testing! 

The sequence of the series is as follows:
  • The Warden
  • Barchester Towers
  • Doctor Thorne
  • Framley Parsonage
  • The Small House at Allington
  • The Last Chronicle of Barset
 I think it's time I read them again!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year ~ dreams for the future and making them happen ~ people who inspire me

The nearby pohutukawas which are coming into bloom are inextricably linked with the beginning of the New Year.  They are a cheerful and uplifting sight.  The massed flowers vibrate with birds and insects all busily making use of the bounty of pollen and nectar.


The New Year is a popular time to reflect on the past and consider plans for the future, to contemplate our dreams and consider what we can do to make them happen.

Our hopes and dreams can readily be dampened by pressures from multiple sources, discouraging us from applying our best efforts, and yet if we want our goals enough and have the tenacity to keep on working towards our them, step by determined step, hugely important things can be achieved, not just by and for ourselves, but with and for whole communities.  In the last year I've been made aware of two New Zealanders who have done this outstandingly: Dale Williams and Bob Harvey both of whom happen to have been mayors. 

Dale Williams, Mayor of Otorohanga, achieved tremendous results in his community solving an intractible three-fold problem in that region: an alarmingly high level of youth unemployment which was driving many to leave or otherwise languish; businesses that could not get the skilled labour they needed; and the local high school which had no connection whatever with local businesses.  These groups needed to be brought together and solutions worked out between them.  What he achieved with the group he led continues to benefit the entire community and shows politics at its best - truly inspiring!   
The talk he gives here is entitled: Small town, big change:


Bob Harvey, former advertising man and later a mayor or long-standing, has a life-long love for and connection with the West Coast beaches of Auckland, particularly Karekare.  In the talk linked to below he expresses his concern for the future of this very special and spectacular coastline and adjacent Waitakere Ranges.  He is now in his 70s.  He describes how, at the age of 52, a time when he had no clear direction in his life, he swam out to sea at Karekare and, looking back at the coastline, asked himself the question: "Who is going to save this from the developers, who's going to save this coastline?"  He continues on:  "And by the time I got back to the beach I thought, it's going to be me".  As part of his strategy he put himself forward for the office of mayor, a position he held for eighteen years, and eventually, after twenty years, he achieved his goal: the protection he worked towards so diligently and for so long is now enshrined in law, in the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008.  It's a huge chunk of land and coastline (see map) and includes the west coast beaches of Whatipu, Karekare, Piha, Bethels Beach, and all the way up to Muriwai.  This again is politics at it's best - benefiting everyone.

I have a slight acquaintance with Bob, from many years ago when he was in advertising.  He used to come to the studio where I worked and I would be summoned to make coffee.  He was always amiable and brought a lightness with him that was always welcome, a man likely to make anyone smile. 

This interview, conducted on Radio New Zealand on 9th November 2012, is entitled
"Bob Harvey: Untamed coast"
  
He has written a book about it which is now in its third edition.  The image of the cover below is a click-through link to New Zealand's on-line book shop 'Fishpond'.
  • "Untamed Coast: Auckland Waitakere Ranges and Heritage Area".
Untamed Coast: Auckland's Waitakere Ranges and Heritage Area

But many of our dreams and aspirations are more personal.

I found this conversation with Jonathan Chase inspiring: he is autistic man who has proved in his own life just how much more can be achieved than even experts may expect: by learning many small steps and gradually extending skills in a structured way.  During his autism diagnosis experts informed him that he would never be able to do work that required the use of his hands or manual dexterity.  Two years later he was working as a full time electric basist, and performing as a magician doing conjouring tricks, both of which he demonstates admirably.  As he says, "...no one can decide whether or not you will be successful, ... you can decide what you want to work on and how hard you push yourself to see it through."  He elaborates on this eloquently in the video.  This is excellent advice for anyone. 


Each of these people makes it clear that to achieve your dreams takes time, hard work, and many steps, but most of all that you have to want it enough to make it happen.  And each of them is doing what they can to help others.  I found them inspiring. 

Sometimes our best achievements are not the result of a conscious dream or wish, but arise simply from dealing with life as it happens - although none-the-less with a degree of drive and enthusiasm.  

My achievement with The Rushleigh Chronicles is just such a one: about six years ago I started writing tentatively as an avenue of self-expression at a time of crippling difficulty, to share my experiences as well as the resources I developed or found elsewhere.  Over time my writing has become more assured and purposeful, at times motivated by fury at the obstacles put in my way!  I have, however, always done my best to be constructive.  Now, greatly to my astonishment, I see that Rushleigh has attracted over 100,000 page views!  

So I've been wondering what it is I want to achieve in the year ahead, and also what is likely to wash in with the tide...

I wish you well with yours.