Sunday, 24 July 2016

Seeking inspiration from and through others; is it habit or a habitus?

My Father has often asked the question, why do I write this blog? The answer is invariably the same, first and foremost, I write because I want to and have an almost compulsive urge to do so. Although writing primarily for me, I feel very privileged that other people choose to read the words. I also know that writing the blog takes time, and it could be time that I might use to do other things. Unlike my colleague Allan Walker (Dean of our School or Arts and Media) who taught himself to touch type in adult life, I am more or less a 2 finger typist. Even so I reckon I can pump out 1000 words every 20 mins, which in some kind of applied logical progression should mean that I ought to be able to churn out a 90,000 word thesis in just under 3 days.

As I am already living with arthritis in both hands, I am pretty sure that a 3 day stint at typing a 90,000 word thesis would be physically impossible. It would be also fairly impossible given that writing is a processes of creation. And the act of creating requires one overriding element, inspiration. How people become inspired will always be different. I don't know where the sense of being inspired comes from. It’s a form of cognitive magic. I do know that for me, inspiration can be triggered by a word read, something seen, a conversation heard or initiated, or a picture viewed. It is one of the reasons I like Twitter, and the rapid access to news and ideas such social media provides.

Social media of all kinds is for many people, an increasingly important part in our lives. For some it is a vital way of communicating with others, particularly 'in the moment'. Such instant live communication was something seen during and after the chaos of the recent Munich attack. It appears local people used the Twitter hashtag #offenetur (#opendoor), to offer shelter in their homes to people trapped in Munich as the city was locked down.

For others it's about sharing good ideas. Last week I became aware of great little project involving children putting forward their solutions to the health problems of the future – and these were some brilliantly simple ideas generated through the innocence of childhood, and facilitated through the Eastern Academic Health Science Network's Health and Wellbeing Village at the Cambridge Big Weekend (see here).  

For me sometimes the inspiration comes from something I feel I should know, but don't (it's really impossible to have read everything one should read in a life time). For example I came across this quote from Plato last week - We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light – a thought that for me felt both simple and profound, and when reflected upon against the context of our political, economic and cultural turbulence, deeply important.

And that’s the thing about writing and publishing it has the power to change beliefs, lives and ways of thinking. I have a Twitter colleague who lives in Melbourne, Australia. I've never met him (but hope one day to do so) – you can find him on @JermeyScrivens – he writes about how organisations can change, what a healthy organisation culture might look like and what it can achieve – I am inspired by both his thinking and academic writing, but equally I like it that he tells me there are 14 kangaroos in his back garden and that his ruby red roses are on the turn. 

Jeremy describes old media, (what I grew up with) as being a single event-consumption (a letter, phone call and so on), whereas social media is a triathlon: people are able to consume, make and share. In so doing they create and feed an ever changing world, what the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called 'habitus' – a 'somewhere' (virtual and physical) that is created through collective social rather than individual processes. It's why, every week,  I write my blog, and every day, I tweet on social media. so maybe when my Dad next asks I can say well its habit or even its a habitus. Once again, thank you for reading these words.