1) Learning the work.
Work is easy – find the pattern and fit in. Do the job better, faster, more effectively and cover all the bases; create space to do more. Everything that goes without saying. There are barriers to effective performance. Firstly there’s the employee: many aren’t in the right place – work is a lark or it’s an adjunct to a busy social life or a just a stepping stone to better money a career move… or maybe they feel life owes them a living. Then there can be impediments in the circumstances of the employer – the business can be under financial pressure, commercial pressure, its ethos may suffer because of unprofessional management or poor attitudes of long term employees leading it to suffer high staff turnover… all things I’ve encountered.
But what’s it all about, work, life, everything?
2) Learning life
Night school study for a HNC (Higher National Certificate between 197/8 and 1980) in Business Studies supplied a mental map for grasping business issues but that’s as far as it goes.
Schooling doesn’t give an answer, parents with a professional background can tell you what’s essential for getting on in the world – money doesn’t make you happy but it can make life bearable… out there are pop idols, sports icons, media gurus – all kinds of people dishing out how they see the world. To make sense of the world, do you follow fashionable social groups with their pre-packaged answers? It’s easy because you let someone else do the thinking.
As a child I took the view that answers would come in their own time, all I had to do was wait. When I started at Bell Woven I was no nearer the answer – I was instinctively suspicious of crazes like: Northern Soul, Grease, Saturday Night Fever; pastimes that got in the way of answers.
3) The context of life
Call it a quest for context. This started in Colne Library during dinner break. I read up on all the greats of the past in Philosophy, History, Music, maths, Logic. It would have been easy to begin with Socrates, Plato and Aristotle – near to top on my hit list, but to approach matters in that way would be disorganised – my list was alphabetical and that was how it was approached. Often there were references to follow up – intriguing but often requiring the selection of a further volume – Colne Library wasn’t the largest so at time I guess I wasn’t the most welcome of visitors, hogging research space as I did. And note there were no computers then, study was directly from individual volumes of Encyclopaedia Britannica.
4) What did I discover?
Many things. Civilisation didn’t begin with writing but one might say that writing triggered history – i.e. recorded history. If you’ve ever played Sid Meier’s Civilisation the starting point is circa 4,000 BC. Writing comes after that point of time… the point being that writing (and literacy) can and has codified, but that isn’t everything that has been known. If a pre-literate society is destroyed, its knowledge vanishes with it. In a sense my delving looked at what we know with a view to establishing boundaries.
In the general scheme of things, Plato’s works are fairly late on in the ascent of man but they are about as early as we can get for a developed world view. Plato does form – in a sense he overdoes it. At a pragmatic level man studies patterns and gains advantage whether it’s by knowing when to harvest or when and how to make more complex decisions. Man is an opportunist. To hold up Plato’s form as a rigid template for right action and virtue is to deny what we are. This is where philosophy parts company with the real world – those who think in rigid ways will ever be disappointed. Yes it all sounds theoretical; most people want an easy answer, something they are comfortable with that doesn’t make them work too hard so they can get on living their lives. That’s pragmatic; that’s what we are. Some want an answer, maybe THE answer. Is there such a thing? That’s unlikely but… it does have a kind of Platonic form feeling. Everything answered by one ultimate concept. Except… it’s kind of simplistic; a world view that works for one person is of no interest to others. The world is messy; people are different.
Plato’s forms came from earlier concepts, eg life’s events can be considered the warp and weft that makes a pattern. That earlier thought signifies a greater harmony, implying not a little fatalism, Plato’s thought on the other hand was designed to empower the Philosopher King.
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Okay! Playtime’s over. Back to the grind.