An Indefinite break

mario

Hello Dear Readers,

I am writing you from a kind of grey and still a bit cold London. It is the first day of Spring today yet the Sun is a bit shy in showing its full rays.

After much pondering I have taken a decision that I would like to share with you. I have decided not to write on this blog anymore.

Let me tell you that this did not came as an easy decision. Writing on this blog gave me many pleasurable moments. It was great to think at stories, writing them down and then see the conversations arising. It has been great fun!

Yet, as much as I have loved this blog, this space was born as an experiment. As every experiment I feel that this one too is ready to stop.

Two major points led me to this decision.

First of all, during my time as a blogger I have seen many types of other blogs. I had the pleasure to read personal development blogs, creative writing blogs, spiritual blogs, yoga blogs, space blogs and blogs on miniaturized worlds (no kidding!). The more I read from other blogs, the less I could pick a structure to follow for mine. You may argue that the name of this blog is the Italian for Thoughts Out of Shape, therefore I should probably not care about shape too much. Although, as much as I enjoyed this freedom of expression, I need some time to redirect my writing efforts. I need a new space and a new vision. I need to find a different shape that would allow me to grow.

Second of all, and most importantly, I feel that I need to devote some time to speak to myself. I need to do writing, plenty of it, and direct it to myself to find my voice. I want to understand in a deeper way which type of writer do I want to be. I feel like I need to experiment a lot and it is difficult to do so in a space which is there mostly for others. To fully explore my new purpose in writing I feel that I need to do some writing that is directed first to myself for a while, before coming out again to a public, for small as it may be.

I hope you understand this decision.

As you can see this decision does not mean leaving writing on the shelf. It means redirecting it, exploring from another perspective to then decide how and when to come back. It is a strong act of freedom, if you like.

It has been a great pleasure to dialogue with all of you. As I said above, I had a lot of pleasure in writing for all of you. I wish you all the Best!

And who knows.. We might see each other again some day in the future!

So long,

Niccolo’


			
					

Taking the leap, a new writing experiment

baby_owl

Ok, it’s official. I am finally doing it.

It might be a bit early to share the news with you, yet I wanted to make my commitment more explicit and binding. I have finally decided to write a book!

I had an idea for a fiction story that stayed with me for quite a while. It stayed in my brain so long that it convinced me that it might be something worth writing about.

As with many things in life, I do not have too many expectations about it. I do not pretend it to lead somewhere, like money, fame or a champagne jacuzzi (although I’ll surely let you know if I end up in one!). But let me tell you one thing: the process has been great fun so far, and that’s all that matters!

As often happens with these types of projects I am completely pervaded by an enthusiasm that I can barely contain and I feel I need to write about it. Unfortunately I cannot write about the story itself (no spoilers!). What I wanted to share with you today are the sensations that starting a new writing challenge like writing a book can give.

It is so different

I did not expect how different writing a fiction can feel compared to other types of writing. In the past I have written poemsshort storiesfree thoughts and mindfulness posts. Writing all of this was really great fun. Writing a fiction feels so different. It is a two speed process. Sometimes words come quickly one after the other. Other times they come slowly and each of them requires pondering. Also the writing has to be carefully crafted into a beautiful and coherent whole which slowly brings the reader more and more into the centre of the action without spoiling surprises too early. It is like a door into somebody else’s fantastic world. A bit of time is needed for other to learn your language. Fantastic!

It is so hard

Writing for fiction is so hard. The difficulties are many. A text will need to be redrafted an incredible amount of times. All the characters need a level of depth I was not used to while writing short stories. The amount of description is also fundamental if one wants the reader to sink into the story (not literally of course!). More than else the challenge for me now is to provide the right psychological motivation to the characters. “Why would the characters acting the way they act? Why aren’t they reacting differently in the surreal situation they are living?”. These are the questions daunting me right now. Answering those questions is like undoing other people’s mental knots when I am not sure I can undo all mines. An exciting mental somersault.

It is so freeing

Writing a fiction gives such a strong sense of freedom. There is a whole world to develop, with its own funny, weird and colourful characters. Human emotions can be presented, twisted and taken to the extreme to see what would happen in an alternative universe with its own rules. It feels like being an alchemist in front of an unknown potion (will it work?). Also, the character development is much more fun then expected. Characters start with a mock voice given by the author. They then make a revolution, take their space and ending twisting the original plot of the story to their own will. Similarly to life things start in a way, then take a massive tangent to then appear again at the starting point with a completely different flavour. So alive!

This whole experiment (that’s what it is) is likely to take time. I do not mind if it will take the next five years of my extra time. I am more determined than ever to take it to completion. If only to see where it will lead me.

Some stories are worth writing about. I believe this story is one of them (at least for me).

I would be delighted to hear form you if you are also into a creative process like the one I describe above. If so let me know, I would love to hear about your creative work!

Best of luck to all of you out there who are committed to creative work! It is wort the pain!

 

Aroma, un tango

tangueros

Era strano come la vista di lei richiamo’ alla sua mente l’aroma del caffé. Era un qualcosa a cui lui prima di allora non aveva mai pensato. Non l’aveva mai associato una donna ad un profumo amaro. Cosa ci poteva essere in lei che tanto gli richiamava l’aroma di una moka? La risposta arrivo’ come spesso fanno le intuizioni, con un lampo improvviso. Cio’ che in lei gli aveva fatto pensare a quella bevanda amara era la capacita’ del profumo del caffé di imporsi su tutti gli altri odori. Era questo cio’ che Luis aveva percepito quando aveva visto Carmen in quella sala da tango. Una presenza cosi’ intensa, come un profumo che si imponeva su tutti gli altri. Luis era un ballerino ormai esperto. Non un professionista, certo, ma sicuramente un praticante navigato abbastanza da saper trasmettere emozioni con la danza. Questa sua esperienza lo aveva gia’ fatto ballare con numerose altre donne. C’erano stati bei momenti, si, ma niente di paragonabile a quello che lui sicuramente avrebbe sentito con Carmen. Che cos’era in lei che lo aveva attirato a tal punto? Forse i suoi occhi neri con un brillio tra l’incuriosito ed il giocoso? Forse quei lunghi riccioli neri che lui voleva tanto accarezzare? O forse il suo portamento fiero che faceva scappare via ogni altro uomo non abbastanza sicuro di se stesso? Anche se la risposta a tutto questo gli sfuggiva, la mente di Luis era stata in grado di mandargli un messaggio ben preciso: doveva ballarci. La ronda di tango era iniziata gia’ da un po’. Il bandoneon quella sera gia’ sembrava parlagli. Ogni nota suonata dalla banda quella sera sembrava averlo portato a quell’incontro. La mente di Luis continuava a mandare segnali sempre piu’ chiari. Quale migliore modo di conoscere una donna se non ballandoci?  Che importa poi se quello che uno scopriva sulla pista da ballo fosse realta’ o finzione? Ad ogni passo verso di lei la sua convinzione saliva. L’incontro si sarebbe svolto secondo regole ben precise. Uno sguardo iniziale, per testare il terreno. Un accenno di lui alla ronda, il cerchio in cui si muovevano gli altri ballerini. Una risposta di lei, un sorriso, o meglio ancora un leggero inclinarsi del capo. E poi tre danze. La prima. Semplice. D’esplorazione. Una sorta di preliminari in cui si cerca di capire quali molle facciano scattare l’altro. La seconda piu’ decisa, un modo per farsi capire meglio, per far capire al prossimo come potrebbe essere una vita insieme. La terza danza sarebbe stata l’apice. Quello sarebbe stato il momento per tirare fuori tutto quello che si aveva da offrire e per soddisfare ogni desiderio nascosto senza piu’ nessuna malizia. Quell’esperienza, quell’emozione, era cio’a cui Luis mirava. Il piano di lui era ormai stato stabilito. Gli occhi di lei gli fecero capire che anche lei aveva un piano, forse diverso dal suo. Forse piu’ intenso. Ora non restava che recarsi a ballare. La vita avrebbe fatto il resto.

Empty Bubbles

bubble

Do you know the feeling of those days where nothing really passes through the mind? A sort of empty space without much running through it? After a long time advocating for the usefulness of being busy, I have finally learnt to love those moments! I am now more and more convinced that life could be highly improved if we were capable of letting some emptiness in our lives.

We live in a society that emphasises business.

Have you ever used the word “I am busy” to get out of any situation? Loads of people use it in many contexts and it works all the time. Nobody would question your being busy. On the contrary, you can use it to get out of a conversation, to avoid going to a friend’s improv, or to justify your desire to spend the evening by yourself.

But what is the hype beyond this business?

Perhaps being busy provides a sense of justification and indulgence, something to look at when you feel uncomfortable about an issue. Or perhaps being busy gives a sense of fulfilment when you look back at how you used your time at the end of the day. In any case, I believe the common idea of busy-ness is overrated.

So, why do people want to be busy? To understand that I had a look around.

I have a good number of friends and relatives around me who struggle with the idea of not being busy. All of them are great people and achievers in their own way. Yet they all struggle with letting go.

In the small sample of human examples I could get the ways of being busy vary. The most common ones include overworking, sorting out their apartment too much, and heading to the gym whenever a free slot in the agenda arises. I do not know the deep reasons why the need to feel busy, yet I can testify that in the moments we spent together when inactivity suddenly rose, the tension coming from not being busy was palpable. Something had to be done to restore busy-ness.

In my life time I had the privilege to be in contact with an absolute guru of not feeling guilty for not being busy: my girlfriend.

Before knowing her I could certainly include myself in the category of busy-ness lovers. Then, my newly found guru enlightened me to the reality that busy-ness is often just plain distraction. A plain excuse to run away from achieving something valuable.

What I have learnt from her is that not being always busy does not necessarily kill productivity, it just shifts it to what is more valuable for us. Perhaps less gets done, I admit it, but what we focus on would probably matter more if we are not afraid of having empty time.

Here are some examples of where I have found taking your time to be the most valuable.

Deciding what to do in your life. Being busy might sound productive in the immediate, but it has devastating effects in the long-run. It is impossible to clearly imagine your future life, if you do not allow yourself with enough easy time to clearly see it. Also, if you feel the need to be constantly busy you would probably be driven by the need to fulfil external expectations. Bad idea.

Writing. Taking time is fundamental for the writing process. I do not how you feel, but for me it is completely impossible to do some decent writing when being busy. In that mental space my creativity simply goes away when I do not let time for the unconscious to develop stories and ideas.

Relationships. I have recently read that one of the best thing we could to to improve our relationship with somebody is to give them our full attention. Giving attention to others is the best way to make them feel valuable. Attention, of course, require time.

Connection. Taking time is also a fundamental healing process. Without taking time out our brains do not have the chance to review all they have been up to recently. Yet, there is also a deeper reason. When we take time to be by ourselves we do not base our value on something we are doing. We allow for an exception to the rule of judging ourselves based on our output. “What have you done today? Nothing, and it felt wonderful!”

So, my friends. As you can see there is plenty to gain from letting busy-ness go.

Have you got any example where doing less has improved your life or boosted your creative work?

Have fun enjoying your time!

That cold, lovely, feeling

Jokulsarlon

End of Winter, cold and windy days. Some few little birds appearing as a sign of an imminent Spring.

I am a big fan of Winter times, particularly when I manage to have holidays in warm and sunny places.

Yet, there is something about this season that made me think.

It all happened while feeling cold during my waiting for an apparently far away bus.

The feeling of cold. My body has a natural reaction to it.

The feeling of cold appears and my body shakes, telling me that it is better to move, to generate energy and heat.

On that evening at the bus stop I could not seem to accept the fact of experiencing a low temperature.

Yet, there is an opportunity while feeling of cold. An opportunity to listen.

If we give the feeling of cold a chance to tell its story we might see that this feeling is not that bad.  It might even be enjoyable.

Have you ever had this experience?

One starts perceiving the feeling cold all over the body. On the cheeks, on the legs, on the hands, on the neck. The cold seems unpleasant. But then a sudden shift.

The feeling of cold is not that bad. In truth it is what it is. Just a feeling.

Cold stops being unwelcomed and what appears is a chance to see it just a physical reaction of our skin to the low heat. Nothing more nothing less. It is actually a very awakening feeling.

How many other things are like that in our everyday experience? How many glares of light appear to be terrible ogres, when they are just a small play of shadows?

 

 

A green ribbon for the planet

Green_ribbon

As you might be aware the next few days might be of particular importance for the future of human societies on this planet. In the next two weeks a UN Climate Summit will be held in Paris. In this occasion governments from around the world will meet up to decide a global action against climate change.

There is overwhelming evidence that climate change is already a reality.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated different possible scenarios for climate change. All of them involve a temperature rise (from 0.6 to 4 more grades Celsius on average according to the scenario) [see table below].

The different scenarios will depend on whether the nations will adopt more global than a regional approach, and whether the nations will provide an higher focus to environmental rather than economic priorities. Global approaches will do better than regional approaches in terms of average temperature rise, so will environmental approaches compared to economic approaches.

Many different schools of thoughts, both religious and secular, came-up with the conclusion that we live in an inter-connected reality where the well-being of the whole system depends on the actions of the individuals. In other words we inter-are, as zen master Tich Nhat Hanh would put it. I could not agree more.

I believe there is an interesting parallelism between the scenarios developed by the IPCC and the vision of inter-dependence of philosophical and religious traditions.

This period of in history is a big chance for all of us to realise more deeply this fundamental truth. What we do affects others, both across the world and across generations. What we have is a big chance to recognise this inter-dependence and to change our behaviour on this planet to ensure we enter a more sustainable path. It is a duty we have for the whole of life really.

I hope this chance will be taken by both the world’s population and by the world’s politicians. I would love to see the walls that divide us to fall when we recognise that change is needed for everybody’s future survival and well-being.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh [him again, I know!] asked all mindfulness to practitioners to make personal commitments for environmental change. These might include joining a march, fasting from meat or diary products, wear a green ribbon, raise awareness as so on. Similar needs to raise awareness and take concrete actions were raised by Pope Francis. Anyway, independently of your political or religious views I would encourage to take action as well to raise awareness on this important issue.

We live in a beautiful planet. If you think about it, the changes of having a planet as beautiful as the one we have we pretty damn low. Furthermore this planet is our home, it is the source of our life and especially it is the only one we have. It is key that we treat it with respect and wisdom.

If you still are not convinced about why we need to love our planet, here are some nice pictures of it which will help you remembering..

 

Nick

And this is me being totally awesome during my first bike ride when I was 14!!!

Have fun!

Table 1: IPCC estimates of future temperature rise

Temperature Change Sea Level Rise)
(°C at 2090-2099 relative to 1980-1999)a (m at 2090-2099 relative to 1980-1999)
Case Best estimate Likely range Model-based range excluding future
rapid dynamical changes in ice flow
Constant Year 2000 concentrationsb 0.6 0.3 – 0.9 NA
B1 scenario 1.8 1.1 – 2.9 0.18 – 0.38
A1T scenario 2.4 1.4 – 3.8 0.20 – 0.45
B2 scenario 2.4 1.4 – 3.8 0.20 – 0.43
A1B scenario 2.8 1.7 – 4.4 0.21 – 0.48
A2 scenario 3.4 2.0 – 5.4 0.23 – 0.51
A1FI scenario 4.0 2.4 – 6.4 0.26 – 0.59

Table notes:

a These estimates are assessed from a hierarchy of models that encompass a simple climate model, several Earth System Models of Intermediate Complexity and a large number of Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models (AOGCMs).

b Year 2000 constant composition is derived from AOGCMs only.

Source: http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/ddc/sres/

[Autumn stories 2] K2, when a dream falls away

K2

On that day of the 31st of July 1954, Dr Charles Houston completely forgot who he was. For as much as he tried, he could not remember a single thing about his identity. His name, his profession, the reason why he was in the small town forty kilometers from where he lived. All of this appeared to have simply gone from his mind.

Charles was a strong men, of that he was sure. There was something in him telling him that he had what it takes to survive, although he could not be sure of where that conviction was coming from. It was perhaps for this conviction that Charles was feeling almost dizzy as he was walking around in that suburban town.

“What a strange feeling not to remember one’s own identity”, this was the thought that accompanied Charles as he was distinctively perceiving the different phases of his amnesia. At the end of the day he was still a doctor, although he had no memory of it!

At first Charles could feel a sense of astonishment, just like when one forgets what he was meant to say. To that followed a feeling of being out of place (we are not meant to forget who we are!). The last feeling was a desire to discovery, to find out the name attached to that familiar face.

It was precisely this feeling that moved Dr Houston’s next steps in his quest for his identity. He wanted to find out who he was and why he was there.

A first, natural move was to look into his own pockets. Perhaps he might have been so lucky to find an ID card, a diary, a note, or at least a clue of his name. Nothing, nothing at all. All of his pockets were as empty as his mind.

It was with a strange sense of hope that he decided to go to the local hospital to find out more about who he was, or at least a little bit of human sympathy for his condition.

The receptionist of the hospital had been particularly kind to Dr Houston. She was perhaps used to people attending the hospital in altered states. Besides, Dr Houston appeared to be a composed and elegant man in his forties. There was nothing in his appearance that could make her judge him badly for what she could tell.

The diagnoses made by the doctor who check Charles Houston spoke clearly: global amnesia due to a stressful event. An hospital would have been of little use in a case like that. What was needed was somebody who could help the patient remembering who he was. Somebody like a parent or a police man.

The engine of the police car was still warm when the young deputy found a clue to help the poor Charles to find out more about his name. A label on Charles’ tie, told the young officer that the man in front of him was an esteemed medical practitioner from Exeter, New Hampshire. What was needed was now just a short car ride to get get Dr Houston to his familiar environment.

As Charles was approaching his hometown his mind, just like the sky after a storm, appeared to becoming clear again and his memories started to surface back again. First slowly, then all in a rush, just like overflowing river.

It did not take it long for Charles to remember it all. The storm, the frost, the hunger. The desire to go back, to get down from that icy, beautiful hell. The fight for life. The hate for his German leader in his first attempt to the peak. The bereavement of his friend Art Gilkey who fell down the mountain despite the friends’ attempt to bring him down after Charles diagnosed thrombophlebitic leg. The hope to make it the next time, when the new expedition would have finally been ready to reach Pakistan.

More than else Charles remembered the fierce sense of disappointment when he heard the names of those two Italian men who took away the trophy for which Charles risked his life just the year before.

Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli. These were the names who took away Dr Houston’s life dream: to be the first one to climb the K2.

Little was left to Dr Charles Houston in that summer day. “Been there, done that”, this was the thought that was reverberating in his mind as he was finally able to recall who he was. The man who almost made it to the K2.

This story has been inspired by the BBC documentary Mountain Men: The Ghosts of K2. I encourage you to watch it if you like stories of expeditions. I believe Dr Charles Houston and his fellows have been incredibly brave in trying their second attempt to conquer the K2. They just have been the unlucky subjects to a series of unfortunate events.

Also, I have met Mario Lacedelli, the grandson of one of the two men who conquered K2, in person. A strong mountain man indeed!