The Overview Effect, (the manifesto anteprima*)

Ever heard of Spacex?

NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise

I hadn’t until I was recently struck by an audio bolt from the radio blue and learnt from the excellent presenter@NickyAACampbell that it is a private company at the vanguard of commercialising space travel. It aims to launch, literally, within months. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTIYPzfThps&feature=youtu.be

The radio discussion then morphed onto the Overview Effect which seemed so interesting…I had to learn more.

The Overview Effect appears to be a new(ish) awareness. It is a combination of thoughts and feelings around looking at Earth from space and realising:

  • Our planet is so small, it is probably only significant to the organisms that live here.
  • The only divisions on the globe are the ones of physical geography e.g. mountain ranges and water (lakes, oceans, rivers). Any political or national or human interventions are false constructs that despite the best efforts of ancient China or Hadrian are basically meaningless.
  • The human species’ desire to build fences and stake out ownership of land walks hand -in-hand with our communal actions of abusing land by chopping down oxygen giving greenery, melting polar ice caps, exploding/testing nuclear warheads and challenging animal species to cope with whatever we feel can be thrown at them.

The effect can probably be summed up; the planet in space is fragile and beautiful and perhaps godly. Yet ‘we’ prioritise other things and take it all for granted, probably because there is no such thing as ‘we’, just me plus me plus me…

This blog however is not a pro-eco clarion call. You can read that kind of thing anywhere (although if you want to cut out the chaff go straight to http://www.monbiot.com/

What I’m writing about is more akin to the exclamation (though neither the film nor its sci-fi context; “In SpaceNo One Can Hear You Scream.” (Alien dir. Ridley Scott 1979 sci-fi) and how, in effect, Space is the last quiet place. Alien

Some of my blogs over the last year have dealt with my Silence Project. It is something I find myself constructing piecemeal and it’s like building a jigsaw puzzle with no guarantee that the all the pieces are present and the box top picture is almost certainly a different scene from the one I am making.

Two weeks ago I went in search of silence in London. My plan was to visit an obvious silent place and then find a less obvious one in its shadow. I began at the British Library (my thoughts from there are at the foot of this page) and although I found a lovely art book on the topic (which I then bought online) my doubts about the existence of silence were confirmed as soon as I explained my project to a librarian called Ulmila. Her unprovoked reaction was something like ’Silence? In a library? You’re joking. This place is full of background sounds which are amplified by the voices of complaining people who want quiet.’

I left the magnificent building with every intention of going to at least one nearby park but my ardour was so dampened by the angular London rain, I returned to the Library and had Silence IMG_2387a coffee and high-sugar bun until I went home. It was in this café however that I had a mini revelation in the form of a flashback reverie.

I thought back to six days before when I had attended a wedding in a deconstructed brewery in the City of London. I recalled the moment my wife and I ambled towards the bar to say ‘hello’ to somebody and somebody. The bar was by the wall and the whole area was bathed in purple lights that jumped to this sick beat (so sue me Swift!) of the darkened vibrating room. The noise was nauseating and I didn’t hear a word that ‘we’ uttered to somebody and somebody, nor what somebody and somebody said back to ‘us’. Acting under previously dealt instructions not to abandon my spouse, I took a sidestep shuffle and propped up the once keg-lined wall. Seeing that somebody and somebody and my wife were merrily gesturing above the noise to each other I grabbed the moment by the ears, tipped my head forwards and shifted my gaze down at my non-dancing feet.

Aah…silence. Of sorts. In a room with 220 people competing with the pumping line of the hellish bass thumps I managed to crawl into the snail shell of my mind. I timed 26 seconds of respite. I snapped a mental photo of my shoes atop the light wood dance floor and although the music was present, I managed to subdue its relevance by allowing it to become wallpaper. Sure my ear drums were still being struck towards terminal deafness and no doubt any observer would have thought of me as a sad loner but I had stolen some hard-to-find thought time against the odds and in a throbbing environment to boot.

I have long argued that silence is more a state of mind than an absolute and now I have experienced it. I suppose my version of silence is a subjective truth rather than an unequivocal one but I am confident that with this rather muted revelation I have found a way forwards with the Silence Project.

Perhaps this is the birth of an Inner/Under View Effect or maybe it’s simply the overview as seen from inside. Either way, it’s no less valid.

True silence is impossible to find. Experts confirm this and add that even in a scientifically silent place you can hear your own blood careening through your system.

My staring point therefore is that silence is impossible. Extreme quiet however is possible and can bring about similar benefits. I’d actually go on to say that it’s preferable because it is natural and more comfortable for thinking beings to deal with.

Photos:

Earthrise; http://www.ecology.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise.jpg

Alien Poster: http://www.pxleyes.com/images/contests/movie-poster-recreation/fullsize/movie-poster-recreation-52953fe575c29.jpg

*anteprima=preview

15 / 02/ 2017 Rough notes

Facts: 11. Feb 2017 British Library, London 10.16 am. 22 degrees C Humanities 1. Thirty Two fellow readers, 65% female.

SOUND: A/C hum, padded footsteps on looped carpet. The soft slide of my borrowed pink pencil (TATE: [not sweet}). Low female voice with a non-local accent, brief punctuated coughing. Key board clicks. The low ecru suspended ceiling swallows bigger sounds and bounces them out through its holes.

SMELL: Cool tinge to a bookish musk

FEEL: Deep paged paper (this book!) smoothly springs up against my writing right hand. My own unshaven face.

SIGHT: Blanched people moving at slow pace and purpose. A woman breaks into a march and a bald male (professor?) follows suit. He slides to his chair, positions four books at jaunty angles (Blue one on the top) and flicker/reads the pages. Broad wide room, up lights shine up and move the white to grey.

Light wood modern desks consume the floor. A library, this one too, a centre of knowledge. These walls house data, opinion. Old news and accidental history (when I write now I’m not thinking of becoming the past).

My own concentration — as ever — is fragile and waning and the SILENCE is only a truth in outer space and earthling death.

Realising upon flickering and reading (flickerding?) that SILENCE (Kamps, Said Menil collections 2012) turns phrases of non-sound to pictorial art. Once concept represents another and my problem with (love of) art is that it borrows its stabilizers from philosophy and intellectual impulse. My project needs to come in at a non-intellectual level.

Person I met: Ulmila, female library assistant who once worked in ASDA and the library in Colindale and at once misses the buzz of retail yet appreciates the calm of the British Library. She also -now that she is older -likes the detail of handling book loans. She agrees that true silence is an unrealistic concept, even in the BL. People complain about human generated sounds, but it is futile.

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Walls of Malaga

nite

As we tumbled out of the taxi my foot hovered over a shallow puddle. Although the Malaga December evening bore no remnants of neither Autumn nor Summer it still held out a hint of a tropical hand: mild, still air, a dry Guadalmedina river bed  and post-flood evaporation. river-malaga

The Hotel Posada del Patio is a combination of at least two old buildings. As we walked towards the more modern half and glanced up to the left I saw its traditional saffron speckled beige walls and wrought iron balcony rails staring back down. They suggested an echo of the middle-ages. We stepped to and through the sliding glass doors and I was struck by a moment’s need to either hesitate or speed through. The entrance floor was also glass and the shock of walking ‘on air’ caused me to falter. Beneath my feet there was an aerial view of an ancient world that had been put ‘on hold’. The sub-floor spotlights picked out a constant day light as the tops of red dusted walls fell short of holding up the floor. I looked down and then up again unnerved by the transparency.

As we strode towards the reception desk a spindly African sculpture tipped her masked head up from the below-ground and whispered ‘Yes, I’m anachronous and incongruous but deal with it mate. I’m art and that’s what counts’.   afrika

A couple of days later I actually ventured sub-terra within the hotel. It wasn’t difficult, the lift drops there and the stairs arrive too. The hotel is built on the ruins of Malaga’s ancient sea walls- the first one of which dates back to the third century and the second the eleventh century. glass-floorOver time Romans, Muslims, locals and invaders have had bricks to add and defence in mind. This city was clearly worth ring-fencing.

And all this made me think. It made me think of time and it made me think of the human instinct to acquire property and to then fortify it so that the acquisition process STOPS HERE.

TIME IS WAITING IN THE WINGS…

I have often fallen into the trap of seeing time as something linear. I’m not the only one though, consider these concepts, none of which I created:-

 

  • Past-Present-Future 
  • January, February, March …
  • The 12 hour clock
  • The 24 hour clock
  • Eram quod es, eris quod sum (Latin) “I was what you are, you will be what I am.”

Looking up from the old city walls I realised the lessons from TV shows such as Time Team that on planet earth time goes upwards and forwards. For thousands of years humans have excavated and dug deep to explore our past. No wonder our instinct is to look up to the sky when we contemplate the future. We are hard wired to sense that ‘back then’ is down and behind while the unknown is up and in front.

I CAN REMEMBER STANDING BY THE WALL.

These two walls, Roman and Muslim stand three metres and eight hundred years apart. They were built to do the same thing- to demarcate and create a stronghold. The problem is that wall builders just cannot beat the clock and ultimately lines in the sand are withered by the waves and a stronghold becomes weak in the face of new ideologies and technologies. the-wall-under-ground

There are remains of Roman walls throughout Europe. Consider also the wall of China, the Western one in Jerusalem and even the one under Donald Trump’s Sombrero. They are all conceived with purpose and civil engineering skills. Their long-term fate however remains in the hands of humans who in time will always seek to disassemble what old foes built, even if they are foes no more.

hotel-posada-malaga

Dancing on the Jetty

(Alternative silences)faenza

A warm 4pm sun slanted towards me as it prepared to set. The 27 degrees were made bearable by a speedy breeze. I stepped up onto the repaired jetty and began a casual stroll seawards towards its lamp bearing point. This is one of two parallel structures that sit about 200 meters apart astride the estuary of Porto Santa Margherita, Caorle near Venice.

I love this place.

I love the peace of knowing that to my right sat my hereditary home town of Venice, to my left, the  Gulf of Trieste and in front, beyond this pier, the relative safety of a calm Adriatic. I’m no seafarer, but if you want to wax and wane about green\blue salt waters, this is a good comfort-zone location to do it.

I was on a mission of silence. Part of a project to unearth a level of inner peace – something that has always eluded me.  It should have been easy to let the wind and lapping waters transport me someplace ‘else’ but to be frank, I’ve never been able to relax or to contemplate but a self-awareness crept up on me as I watched other people I could begin to take aim.

As I begun the stroll I was immediately struck by how many other people were passing their time on this same strip of concrete. A random cross-selection of Italy, about fifty people, was shuffling, marching, walking, swaggering and flouncing.

There was the noise of the seaside; birds, swans, wind, voices and the further I walked out, the softer they became. The shuffling sandals always belonged to people and of the people, this group of disconnects, I found four types of person, each embracing their own peace;

Western Guru, Fishermen, The Seaweed Community, The Observer’s Shadow.

When it comes to a calm the mind there’s no hierarchy and no space for judgement. Each has their own place along the jetty and whether that person is on a holiday break, a pause between bouts of depression, a child losing her inhibitions in the warm sun and a million other permutations. They are all valid.

What works for you

Could work for them

Or it may not.

If this silence is actually loud

There’s another version that will work

Your task is to find it and own it

And this is one thing you don’t have to share.

The first person was the Western Guru. 

guru
Western Guru. Vuitton bag, Yoga mat and an Occidental sun

A European man sat facing the sea. Legs crossed lotus. His slim flexible frame sent a shudder of envy down my un-flat stomach. With his yoga mat and straight back it could even be that he wanted to be seen ‘doing it right’. I couldn’t decide if he was performing and wishing to be seen or truly building from inside. To offer the benefit of my doubt, I’d say that from his point of view the passing sample of public was an incidental thing. He could create an internal calm not despite, but because of the external sounds. Slapping waves, gull cries and even fighter jets on their way to and from an air display along the coast.

The more (confusion) outside: the more (controlled calm) inside.

It made me think that to assume a place of inner silence when already surrounded by silence, can for a town dweller, be rather daunting. But to be silent when surrounded by the familiarity of sounds and voices can enhance the peace.

And on I went along the path. I remember a brassy hook embedded in the sunken concrete that blinked up at me emblazoned TEMA FAENZA.

And so to the fishermen.

Mainly alone yet some in pairs, these men and boys enthuse about tackle and bait yet once they’ve cast the line, cloak themselves in stillness. Somehow the muted hubbub doesn’t affect the fish and a little like the Western Guru their actions are minimal and habitual. They do what they do and that is enough.  fishermen

Fishermen seem to know themselves. They appear self-aware.

Is their end game really to capture the flailing floppy fish or is the act of fishing the end in itself? I shifted focus to a tanned man with a simple rod and the ancientness of this activity came to me. Was this the beginning of humans discovering patience? When they accepted that the road to the goal of food required strategy and stillness and that this waiting time brought about the bonus of introspection and chill?

As I moved along the pier I noted that if a fish was caught it was the watching kids and adults that reacted in excitement at the capture. The fishermen remained stoic and controlled, as if the hook and haul was part of the process, not the end of it. Somehow even though hobby fishermen could undertake the activity without trying for a catch, the potential bite remains key. Even if the catch is in truth a secondary goal to the main one of carving out some ‘me-time’, to achieve moments of peace, the ‘wake-up’ jump-to-it moment of getting a bite is sewn into the process.

The Seaweed Community.

And on further towards the sea I went. To my right, on the large bank of sloping crane-planted rocks sat three young people and a dog. Here they shared a long, clumsily rolled joint. My first thoughts turn to the quadruped, barking his passive smoking way to dog-space. And as his bark subsided I confessed to myself that I never got this hippy thing. Personally I’m happier with the odd-un-shared Tramadol.

seaweed
The dog sits low on the stones between her left kidney and his left knee.

‘Off my head inside my head. Alone.’

Yet this group chill is shared by many and as I watch the humans giggle and move in slow motion I accept that this kind of shared space doesn’t have to be a bad space. Whatever these people are feeling, or think they are feeling, I can see that as the sun sets and the sea breeze blows, the reality of the situation really doesn’t matter. If you can slip into a moment and then let it slip away, what the hell?  After all, it’s a viable rehearsal for the great unknown. The giggles and whispers between the youths and the dog are certainly not silence, at least not in its literal format but the state of a different reality is possibly just as valid. I suppose the issue with drugs, apart from dangers, costs and social alienation is that they might take you further away from inner peace rather than nearer to it.

But I’m not the one to judge because my own peace is largely derived from being the passive observer. I’d like to be the invisible man. In fact not even that man himself, but his shadow. Reality not once, but twice removed.

The Observer’s Shadow.

Consider some facts;

shadow
I cast a shadow taller than I’ll ever be, yet he’ll never be anything other than flat and in 2D.

 

  1. I have tried yoga and meditation. I’ve even had an Ayurveda massage and disliked them all. I find that an enforced introspection can dig up those not-so-deep lying demons of failure, conspiracy of the system against me and lost opportunities. The shark-toothed bite of nostalgia can infect me with quaint smells and deep regrets. My past is one of cautious times cautious squared. The ghost of the mediocre scares me when my own silence is loud.
  1. I tried fishing too and despite the thrill, the idea of waiting Godot-like for a fishy end with a wormy hand and hook-punctured finger has no appeal. I’d be sitting on the edge wishing I’d brought my hand sanitiser. C’est la guerre.

 

HOWEVER.

I do find a peace in being the watcher. The one based on the periphery with licence to step in and step out in a heartbeat.

My silent place is derived from watching two or three people or ideas come together and curating the outcome.

I’m aware that this is very much an artist’s position. Watching, interpreting and creating. My own silent place kicks-in before the creation. It’s the joy of seeing connections, those already manifested and those yet to occur. The world recreates miniature works of art every moment and even if I’m no Da Vinci, I can still sense the silent rumble of things about to unfurl.

swans
Swans in the sea, whatever next?

 

 

 

Silent Horizon with Auditory Features

 

In conclusion there is silence

Yet before arriving there is noise, musing and meander

But for sure, the end is as it begins.

Summer for many people is a focal point. It is supposed to represent a pause in proceedings and an opportunity to rest and restore energy. It can also however be an unwelcome and abrupt halt. In fact to many, the whole concept of a hot August and its dog days conjures up images of sole-burning sand, pesky sun-in-the eyes and excessive heat. It becomes a hurdle to overcome before you can return to long sleeved, double-layered normality of cool.

 

Occurring soon after the year’s halfway mark, high summer is a period which peaks in mid-August, then plateaus and descends like a lava-skier down towards the calendar’s finale. People work/strive/limp towards it and with varying degrees and combinations of dread and excitement attempt to deal with it.

An often cited reason for taking a vacation is to relax. This, to me has long been a challenge and the proof is that despite my annual plea to my family to cajole me into booking the annual family trip early, I always leave it until late. I wait for the internal stress to boil up and the external familial bullying to reach a shrill pitch that usually with a few weeks to go, I relent and sort it out. Colleagues think I’m being laid back, my family think I don’t really care and the truth is that booking and embarking make my head whistle.

This whistle is not a metaphor either, it’s a thing of truth.

During moments of great pressure I get clattered by in-head voices. They start as a mumble and rise in pitch until I hear a high treble whirr that recreates the feeling of that self-inflicted in-flight yawn we create when the plane bang-whacks the altitude where ear-canals block. I become momentarily deaf and my hammer/anvil thump in tune with my heart to such intensity that I cannot tell which organ is calling me.

This moment is born from stress plus others peoples’ noises that amalgamate and become a pure fact that chases me inside myself. Within these sounds of patting and tapping a soft silent hand-like gesture sweeps my brain from nape to forehead and for a few absent seconds I crawl behind my closed eyes and engage a noiseless cocoon.

Yet this sensation has also happened during those all-too-few moments of personal greatness.

Once, when I unexpectedly won a sprint at junior school, another time when I was announced as the winner of a competition I hadn’t even entered and most recently when I opened an email to discover I’d been offered work by an organisation that had ‘released’ me four years previously. My internal reaction to triumph brings about the same sense of tinnitus as does my brain’s need for flight during fight.

What’s going on? How is it that moments of extreme, out-of-the blue, self-actualisation on one hand and cacophonous human vocal-screams on the other, both have the capacity to force me inside?

For some time I struggled to see how these sensations were connected, but three suns of conclusion have now dawned;

  1. I am not built to deal with the extremes of either success or conflict. This is odd because I have always purported to want success and anyone who knows me will tell you how I go to great lengths to avoid conflict. I suspect that somewhere ‘back there’ I’ve forged an agreement that offsets the horrors of litigation with holding back from real success.
  2. These moments, especially the good ones, belong to me and are not to be shared. I think this is partly because what I feel as something great e.g. having an article published in a magazine is seen as ‘nothing special’ by my peers.

But less literally I feel that every one of us feels differently and uniquely about stuff. Like that age old ‘When we both see the sky is blue, do we both see the exact same hue?’

{So, when a sports commentator asks an Olympic medal winner how she feels about her success, it’s not a dim question. The only regrettable thing is that we don’t have the words to express the personal truth.}

3. A way to digest and evaluate the extremes of life is to manage them in silence. There are times to spell it out / spill it out / shout / cry / punch the air / laugh aloud but these a short and sharp.

Silence, once under your control can be stretched and dwelled within.

A blanket in winter or

A reflective shield

During days of the summer diamond dog.

 

The Storm

 

PHOTOS:

http://www.fashionising.com/pictures/b–Vintage-inspiration-girl-in-the-bubble-4973.

html#/gallery/collection/10http://www.fashionising.com/pictures/b–Vintage-inspiration-girl-in-the-bubble-4973.html#/gallery/collection/4

flickr.com/photos/dfikar1/6837981235/