These routes are made for walkin’


What is a life?

Some hold the definition of a straight line as the shortest distance between two points : seems both intuitively and rationally true. Yet it strikes me as intrinsically sad: unless you’re a Roman foot soldier whose feet have a vested stake, what’s beguiling about an unexplored path?

The pestilence, which appears to have acquired a tidal nature rolling in and out, has thrown up opportunities to rethink how we behave, replenish, ventilate, assume responsibility, acknowledge [mind ya prolix, Ed], aspire … you get the idea?

To which end, Town Centres: they iz a-changin’. A break-out group of a North London Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise [NLCCE] conference in February – remember February? Before Covid-19 had hinted itself into being – discussed the future of the High Street which seemed prescient then but now, the conclusions drawn appear self-evident.

The High Street evolves in ever-shortening waves. No-one’s left who remembers two sweet&paper shops, a baker, DelikatEssen, Blacksmith and a hairdresser with those terrifying, rigid dryers standing sentinel along a wall – and all of them privately owned.

Well, mebbie it lies in virtue that harmoginodge – a somberly vaccuous case of national brands engulfing individualism – has been found wanting.

Brits, it seems, want shops with variety and idiosyncrasy: in the absence of which they shop online. Thus, the function of a High Street evolves into a place for socializing rather than commerce. Java joints and Houka lounges smoulder where once a haberdasherery rubbed shoulders with the green grocer, where that essential hardware store jived with the mistress of vinyl.

Life, lived to its fullmost extent, requires mingling in social celebration. Live, thrive, strive and stride into a multi-coloured/ethnic/aroma’d/possibilitied future where the rules have been thrown in the air and are landing in different patterns.

If the root of all evil is money, then perhaps this is a time to divert one’s route along different corridors to see what exists beyond?

Putting things in perspective


© Yiannis Efremidis                                   Analemma: Clock time vs Solar time an everlasting tag of war! After 18 months the Avlaki Analemma project became a reality. Only six of the 52 weekly images were lost due to inclement weather, Yiannis took 46 successful pics through the year.       Solar Analemma is the figure-8 pattern that shows the Sun’s path in the sky at the same time of the day throughout a year at a specific location on Earth. The dots in the sky are the Sun’s center from photos taken at 8:45 a.m. & 9:45 a.m. according to daylight saving time, roughly every week from March 26, 2017 to March 25, 2018. Location: Avlaki Beach, Attica – Greece

This is written while supine and in the shade. Sometimes the crushing, unimaginable scale and voluptuous beauty of creation becomes overwhelming, possible to approach only as a fragment of oneself so as to lessen the searing scorchment of understanding.

Hence, we start with Yiannis Efremidis calming tracerie above, in preparation for what yodels beyond our solar system. The languid grace of Infinity’s symbolic never-endingness is but a glimpse of how all that is, ever was.

© NASA                  You’re looking across 11 billion years of cosmic spacetime.                                                                                                                                          Scientists have released the largest ever three-dimensional map of the universe, proving that it is basically flat.
“We know both the ancient history of the universe and its recent expansion history fairly well, but there’s a troublesome gap in the middle 11 billion years,” said Dr Kyle Dawson, cosmologist at the University of Utah, who led the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) team which worked for the past five years to fill in that gap.” (appropriately, quoted from Sky News)

Would that we might observe our gorgeous planet in the context of the space – the yonder – it occupies and spend more time glorifying its wonders than in wrestling down myriad, earth-bound trivialities.

Amid such ventilating wonder, thankfulness for our surroundings and those who help us understand it better is surely a universe of blessing?

Gold, Frankincense and Merchandize


The Materials doesn’t enter the political sphere in virtue it is, by its essence, divisive. We attempt to focus an emotionally resilient perspective as mere observation.

Have you noticed the very striking physical, intellectual and behavioural similarities between the blonds either side of th’Atlantic?

The Prime Minister and the #Resident seem strongly attracted to transforming the business of politics into their fiefdom’s playground. Indeed, one wonders where their [advisers’] apparent messianic fervour to bonsai politics will lead given such latent Cummings/Kushner immersion.

It could be argued that the American (1789) and British (Act of Union, 1800) political systems have equal maturity – though there was something of a longer run-up on the eastern side of the pond.

Somehow, it feels as though written and unwritten constitutions – whose stabilizing walls have supported and guided events when turbulence threatened chaos – have lost their relevance to holders of great office. The spine that upholds and impartially protects the spirit in which countries are governed appears to have received such a kicking, it is in peril of cracking.

Thank goodness there are those, like Dr Julian Lewis, MP to whom integrity matters and whose backbone can’t be swayed by threats trickled from catapults. He’s sure to be humming ‘Whip crack away to your hearts content: I’ll be getting on with the job’.

Ole blue eyes sure ain’t makin’ whoopee


Image: Cornel Constantin/Shutterstock                                  Guess who this is

Obligingly, The British Arachnological Society (BAS) found it was one leap too far to suggest spiders could be attributed an equal intellect to octopi merely by virtue of eight legs. While we’ve all read that the enormously social octopus can solve complex problems – mebbie in virtue of having a brain in each leg as well has its head – it occurred to us the same might apply to their similarly limbed land-cousin the spider.

Apparently not.

Lockdown, which “hijacked our summer vacation” has given swinging vaguaries space for idle wonderage. Happily and amongst many other more pressing matters this Jumping Spider above, sprang to our attention.

From Noel Kirkpatrick‘s article in the May 2020 issue of Treehugger.  “It’d be easy to think that these tiny creatures have insanely muscular legs given their ability to leap up to 50 times their own body length. This is not the case, however. Instead, jumping spiders rely on segmented legs and blood flow to make their crazy jumps. When they’re ready to jump, the spiders cause an extreme change in hemolymph pressure (the spider equivalent of blood pressure) by contracting the muscles in the upper region of their bodies. This forces the blood to their legs, and this causes the legs to extend rapidly. This quick and sudden extension of their legs is what propels them in the direction they’re aiming.”

That aside, just think about it, though. Processing the information from eight eyes while organizing the mind to move eight legs in addition to producing an inexhaustible supply of what’s proved so far to be the planet’s unknowably-strong protein, simply has to infer an ingenious mental acuity, no? That’s not a web of intrigue, merely natural deduction from explicative reasoning … and real spidery, man.

It really is Appalling


C3P0 comforting R2D2                               Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker

Amid a plethora of aphorism to cascade from the tall Irishman, one which constantly delights is I can resist anything but temptation. Bless his heart, Oscar Wilde.

Well, it’s been a struggle since hearing it and has now proved impossible to resist howling … cackle-ing even … at this no-brainer news.

The Health Secretary announced this week the Covid-19 contact tracing app trialled on the Isle of Wight would be superseded by a different model: seemingly, it bombed.

It’s plausible to say only a minority of the professional population take account of the impact the emotions have in determining the decisions we make: which still strikes me as odd as it ain’t a new idea.

Genial and rotund David Hume in the 18th century would tell you no decision was made without reference to emotion – “reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”

Expecting a Brit to obey a script received on a phone issuing life-style limiting instructions was not a plan in which emotional intelligence ever played a role.

How proud Mrs Hancock senior must be of her son’s vision, empathy, compassion and humanity. Such foresight into the hearts and minds of the population.

We are the human beings. Our phones are the Android. Seems vacuous even to have to say that.

By the by: Prince Philip who gives us the headline above, has been a life-long adopter of cutting edge technology. Mebbie he should be consulted on this?!

Nurturing Skinship with one another


Let’s learn from those whose light within shines out

Have you noticed: there’s more than Covid-19 in the air?  It seems racism has acquired the quality of contagion.

In the last few days, I have been accused of being racist on four occasions. It’s so long since that happened, I struggle to remember wherewhenhow it last occurred.

I wonder what’s driving it?

Ah, I do recall. After a few months sharing a kitchen, I termed the depleting hygiene standards of a fellow user as ‘nauseating’. She reported it; I was described as racist. Still don’t see the connection. That may be a useful hook on which to rest this … unrest.

It is th-Rilling for humanity that inhumane habits – treating anyone badly in virtue of their quintessence – are revealed for what they are. In the blazing light of revelatory scrutiny, casual cruelty might shrivel from the civilized behaviour manual.

What troubles me is that those who’ve felt oppressed for so long logically see pernicious hostility everywhere. Perhaps stepping with greater, more cautious care in navigating a path through life will help reassure others?

Understandably, sensitivities are at highest levels of exposure: when released from a kind of captivity, we all react with a delicious and wild abandon. Stretching one’s mind to try to understand or, to quote Atticus Finch, “walk in another man’s shoes” is a powerful start to how each of us can help transform fear and resentment into a willingness to see beyond.

To focus on the Light in all of us will illuminate the kinder side of our nature which has the gorgeous potential to evolve into a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Emotional intelligence&resilience fortify the ability to manage things better than is currently experienced. Here at The Materials, we long for cultural leaders to endorse its pragmatic, explicative function to make the world a kinder place.

Ultimately, what’s needed is more people to knead EQ into the dough of their lives for self-raising flourishing to infuse its powerful presence.

Who’ll be our champion?

Eye of storm in face of history


Image: Behance

It is around twenty six years since events stirred themselves together to produce The Marshmallow Project*. It came into being in virtue of the absence of Listening. This sophisticated instrument of communication stabilizes and brings balance to understanding.

Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s life

The world is caught in a perfect storm of contagion. Pestilence hangs in the air which frays calm: such ever-hovering potential and menace dissolve resilience to carry on as normal. [Alleged second-degree] Murder publically committed with such a face of history can only churn sentiment into a tornado of outrage.

Pestilence and outrage spread.

Emotional intelligence is a tool to repair things. It listens to pain with empathy. It understands causes of action and by supporting the weight of both, it eases the hurt inflicted. Soothing pain and hurt acknowledges and dignifys their right to exist; this eases their impact.

This morning on the radio, John Apter, National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales responded that before waves of protest planned for the weekend “a balance [had to be found] as the majority were peaceful and wanted their voice to be heard”: that “this is about communication: we must listen to their concerns”.

Amid the chaos, this is music to our ears: a note striking a chord of utter sense. “When people are in trouble, we should step forward”: being part of the solution empowers resolve to be the kinder person.

*First there was The Marshmallow Project, 1994. Once established, it became Marshmallow, 2000. Rebranded as Madeleine Baird Materials, 2015.

Fog of grief


© Thinkstock

Occasionally something rises as Excalibur that speaks directly to the heart.

Well, while gliding up Twitter feeds, a grieving Aunt was comforted by a compassionate soul with ‘So sorry. We thank him for his service to Our Country. Rest In Peace.’

It doesn’t matter if these two compassionate souls know one another. Acknowledgement of pain and its cause matters somehow to the process of accommodating it. Why?

Amid the pestilencial perfidy slithering itself around the Globe has been revealed an appetite for humanity to shine stronger. One aspect blazons strength of resistance to unseen attack. Another demonstrates the importance of softening the heart to others’ suffering. Not feeling so alone in grief is itself of comfort and support.

It helps knit together forever broken threads.

Priti Vacant


© News Biscuit          The Home Secretary, Rt. Hon. Priti Patel, MP for Witham

There’s no point in asking
You’ll get no reply
Oh just remember I don’t decide
I got no reason it’s all too much
You’ll always find us
Out to lunch
Oh we’re so pretty
Oh so pretty
We’re vacant
Oh we’re so pretty
Oh so priti
Don’t ask us to attend
Cause we’re not all there
Oh don’t pretend ’cause I don’t care
I don’t believe illusions ’cause too much is real
So stop your cheap comment
Cause we know what we feel
Oh we’re so pretty
Oh so pretty
We’re vacant
Oh we’re so pretty
Oh so priti
Lyrics of Pretty Vacant by Sex Pistols, 1977
Cynics by MBM, 2020

The nature of our nature


©  Basic Elements Photography / Getty              Walls in Antelope Canyon        The smoothly eroded walls of both Upper & Lower Antelope Canyon are slot canyons located on land belonging to the Navajo Nation, near Page, Arizona.

Is it just me or do you idly anthropomorphize objects – you know, see human form in clouds, trees, … rock? Well, take a look.

The couple locked in an impossibly forbidden kiss simply breaks my heart.

To restore things, therefore, cheer yourselves up with this exquisite demonstration of virtuosic performance by Renaud Capuçon and Guillaume Bellom, musicians whose joie’d’vie simply splooshes over the brim.

Look at how they Listen to one other.

Bringing joy builds muscles for bringing joy. Listening builds muscles for Listening. …