what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Monday, January 17, 2011

wood and wisdom

There is little more satisfying in winter than raising a good axe above your head in the open air and bringing it down with a swift, so professional, movement to split a suitably sawn and well-seasoned chunk of wood! I take some pride in having heated myself, in my recent sojourns here, only with the wood from the branches I sawed from the 2 garden trees in the autumn (OK I take the nip off the air in my study with a burst from the electric heater!).
I made the mistake last week of using some logs which had not dried properly in the spare room – and so have now chopped some which have been in the open air and therefore season better. They are now in the bedroom, having a last bit of seasoning in the warmth of the bedroom (whose stove went out 15 hours ago but whose bricks continue to keep the room iincredibly warm). I will not need to light the fire again beforee my departure tomorrow. I’m off to Sofia for a couple of weeks - some business on a small training project I have there; meet old friends (including the wine!); and visit the art galleries for more paintings.
I’ve just taken the laptop out on the verandah after clearing the ashes from the bedroom fire to protect it from the ash particles and find that I can sit comfortably on the verandah – in mid January at 1,400 metres in the Carpathians (well for 15 minutes!) Great sounds – birds, folk music from somewhere and the inevitable sound of a power saw.
I’m now in the last stage of the paper relating to Chinese adminsitrative reform – over the week-end it grew an important section summarising (for me and the Chinese) the last 40 years’ history of reform efforts! This morning, therefore, I had to return to the start and explain the purpose of and audience for the paper. It has been written for anyone engaged in discussions about administrative reform in China – whether Chinese or foreign. The project I was to have led last year there was not only designed to assist indigenous reform efforts – but also service an EU-China dialogue about administrative reform. Perhaps, as a good Scot, I feel guilty about walking away from that – and want to make amends! Right now I am looking at a blank section with the headline „Coda” in which I want to leave some brief, final injunctions about reform endeavours. Any ideas? I think I want to say something about "balance" - relating to recent comments here about that. At the moment I have only two extended quotations – the first a TS Eliot poem which always crops up in my writing; the second Rosabeth Kanter’s 10 rules for stifling initiative.
I’ll sign off with the poem -
So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years -
Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate - but there is no competition -
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again; and now under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.
TS Eliot; The Four Quartets

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