“Take a good rest, small bird,” he said. “Then go in and take your chance like any man or bird or fish.” Ernest Hemmingway.
I presume that Hemmingway was writing about an average bird. He doesn’t mention it not having legs when it perches; the bird flies so therefore its wings are intact, not battered nor bruised, mental state unknown though it is tired and off balance, possible substance misuse problems but one shouldn’t leap. Perhaps it’s simply knackered from life, flying alone, possibly for quite some time, trying to find a decent home to cherish in a decent neighbourhood where it would be safe and could belong.
Life gives no promises except one-if you’ve come in, you’re going out; a ruthless way to begin life and a ruthless way to exit. It need not be left to chance to make that life worthwhile, irrespective of circumstance. There’s no accountability to life anyhow, only to oneself and occasionally to or from another, though rarely felt in service interactions. This is extrapolated through experience for most of us and can be a tough lesson to take and to keep taking. The state that one comes in, the state that one ‘lives’ and the state that one leaves are open to a multitude of variables but is it natures law to be left to chance?
Many of these variables are life’s lighthouses and they are beacons of potential, like teachers for example; highly tuned scanners that would make the engineers at NASA jealous. They pick up on the slightest thing, aware before services ever are. Therefore, when Life says, ‘I will mark your time in the interest of fairness with chance but measured on not only the effort of yourself but on the reliance of others’, there is no requirement to accept the absurdity of that proposition. That is the position that Barrow now finds itself, a remarkable opportunity to load the dice in spite of life and its absurd circumstance, to change the definition from degree of probability to something that will happen.
Things like stop referring to people as marginalised, living on the borderlands of society, feet sunk into slag heaps scavenging for coal. They are neighbours embedded between us, more prone to be scavenging for food at present although fuel poverty now has a different face. How would you know that your neighbour was cold? Perhaps when you noticed the shed starting to struggle. Things where neighbourhoods hold their own associative power with services positioned to collaborate and offer expertise if required, not to lead needlessly or artificially. Things where neighbourhoods have their own accountability and can hold their own vote instead of giving it away to be digested in the language of systems and behaviour. You can create your own badges, sifting through what has become ludicrous. The community will know what works and what doesn’t.
It’s a two -year project and there is a lot of evidence to gather. Most people when they look at a watch, they simply want to know the correct time, not what makes it tick. But many of us do want to know and maybe we should do too; do not presume presently that we won’t. For those of us who work in the world of cogs and gears the wealth of evidence to facilitate change is already huge. It cannot work as a paper exercise, but my desk is already littered with an array of perception.
Perspective is a capricious commodity akin to memory. For instance, when members of a family get together and talk about an event, possibly from childhood, many of the memories do not match. Reading the information already gathered and listening to some viewpoints from those involved in the project I have found myself already hindered by perception. Perception is the whim of its master and troublesome already. If I don’t understand how my own mind and body work, how can I be of assistance to someone wanting help to understand theirs?
Are the objectives clearly understood and shared? Think about it. If you feel compelled to participate then you’re an instrument of manipulation and that will surface in destructive behaviour. Without shared clarity of purpose relationships suffer, therefore what is the commonality between the organisations involved that will bind them together? At present there are seven of them with contrasting visions, missions and principles. They operate on different scales, in different spheres that have a tendency to overlap, sometimes leading to disagreement or dismissal.
At this point a tactic to rouse you back from the mire of looking at other organisations’ defects could be to hit you with the statistics of what is going on in Barrow. But they’re already known and if desensitizing hasn’t already set in humans have a natural capability to adapt to shock. Tragic accounts are known across the services so would yet another case study upset the rhythm of a heart? Perhaps not.
When my daughter was four years of age I entered the local 10km run. Ten weeks prior training of hill work, speed work, long distance running, trying to eat correctly, getting enough sleep and everything else that goes on in life. It was a tough course and I felt I’d given maximum effort. When I crossed the line I was spent. I went to my daughter in the crowd and in between stuffing her mouth with maltesers she inquisitively asked,” why didn’t you win dad?” and thus went back to eating her chocolate. It’s a valid question; what’s more it was a vital question. A four year old had the authority and power to influence an inventory and account of myself.
She didn’t say it accusingly; it was a genuine question because she believed I could have won but more importantly that I would be able to hear what she had to say. We have that kind of relationship. From her perspective I was capable of winning, I had the assets to win and what’s more I had her faith that it was possible. She didn’t ask if the course was too hilly, whether it was overcrowded so that I had to zig and zag, she didn’t ask if I was tired from the nightshift or whether that other issue had interfered with my training. I came 111 out of about 4000 which I didn’t think was too bad. However, on reflection and because I was moved by a four year olds question, I worked out that if I’d gone a second faster per kilometre I would have finished in the top 100. I still would have been asked the question but the account would have shifted because the experience had shifted also.
That was one individual, one question. Collectively in Central and Hindpool wards there is a population of over 10,000. It’s a large number but the question remains the same, why didn’t you win? Not because of them or this or that but why didn’t ‘you’ win? Seven organisations involved currently. Are you doing what you can or has treading water become the norm? Did you do what you could have done or could it have been done better? Can you look at yourselves and hear what others have to say about you? Maybe that’s too affective for some stomachs so this is a passage I read recently,” People’s income, family structure, housing, employment, and educational opportunities affect not only their risk of developing traumatic stress but also their access to effective help to address it. Poverty, unemployment, inferior schools, social isolation, and substandard housing, all are breeding grounds for trauma. Trauma breeds further trauma. It is a serious business.
When the small bird had rested it flew on, “… it is rougher where you are going until you make the shore”. That is a fact; the hawks will circle, but it is better to be measured by effort than chance. Hemingway’s shore however could have been a ruse. The bird’s time is nearly up. The shore is its final place. Before it gets there it will get rough, the hawks will hold the bird to account and pass judgement accordingly. Now how do you fancy your chances?”