Wednesday, February 04, 2015

When the winds of change blow...I sometimes change my mind.

Morning has broken...the hills of Fife,
and the midway point of the morning run.
Almost every morning, before sunrise, we leave the village where we live, and head for the hills. The daily run has been an important "discipline" for many years. And the older we get, the easier it is to get out. Why? It's become a habit. Philosopher William James put it well:

Habit simplifies our movements, 
makes them accurate, and diminishes fatigue.

This particular 8.3 km loop takes us alongside rolling turnip fields, through a working farm, sheep pastures, by a quarry of orange-pink volcanic felsite, and up into the lovely hills of Fife. Along the way, the view looks out over a patchwork quilt of green fields, RAF Station Leuchars, the historic town of St. Andrew's, and the North Sea. Even at a distance, the ruins of St. Andrew's Cathedral, built in the 12th century, and once the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland, can be easily seen. The historic buildings of St. Andrew's University, the third oldest university in the English speaking world, still bustles with students from all over the world. There are some golf courses there too, rather famous ones, their soft and manicured fairways and greens, extending beyond the margins of the town.

The early morning run is always a "moving meditation". A body in motion, heart and lungs working together, becomes a fertile place for ideas, and problem solving. The late George Sheehan, cardiologist, marathon runner, and philosopher cautioned that we should "trust no thought arrived at sitting down." He wasn't one to "sit", nor was he a "spectator". He always advised "participation".

The seated spectator is not a thinker; he is a knower. Unlike the athlete who is still seeking his experience, who leaves himself open to truth, the spectator has closed the ring. His thinking has become a rigid knowing. He has enclosed himself in bias and partisanship and prejudice. He imagines himself self-sufficient and has ceased to grow. - George Sheehan

Sometimes in life we make observations, form opinions, or take actions...and then change our mind about things. I think it's like the "spectator" and the "participant". The spectator has made up his mind, and closed the doors to new information. The participant, however, hungers to grow and integrate new and fresh information. Some years ago, I was affectionately (I think!) teased, about how I would sometimes "change my mind". I always struggled to explain these actions, and even felt embarrassment at what might appear to be "indecision", or worse, "wishy-washyness"!

"Changing one's mind", however, in light of new information is what keeps winter hill walkers alive. Weather can deteriorate, frequently. Plans need to be adapted. Giving second thoughts to a day on the water, in light of new information or an updated forecast, keeps the sea kayaker from becoming a victim of his own refusal to accommodate changing conditions on the sea. It also saves the RNLI volunteers from launching a life boat, and endangering even more lives.

On this morning run, the camera captured a simple lesson. Three horses, on the top of the hill, were backlit by the rising sun. They seemed to be wearing blankets. It was impossible to determine one horse from another...the lighting did not allow any further information. They were little more than three, nondescript silhouettes.

Three horses...backlit.
Rounding the corner, and looking up at them from the other side of the hill, however, provided a whole new perspective. Illuminated by the sun, more information became available. They were, indeed, wearing blankets. And each horse could be clearly identified.

Three horses...sunlit.
Reassessment, re-evaluation, having "second thoughts", based on new information, may well result in "changing one's mind". That process, however, demonstrates participation in life's changing conditions. In the mountains and in a sea kayak, it keeps one alive. Elsewhere, it keeps one connected to reality.

There was another small lesson on this morning's run. Ever noticed that the windmill derives its greatest strength, value, and reason for being, by facing directly into the winds that blow across its path? It's a good reminder to face our challenges, head on...and derive strength from them.

Facing directly into the wind.
There's a proverb that says, "when the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.” I'm rather partial to directions that empower.

So when the winds of change blow, that's sometimes when I change my mind. It gets you out from behind the walls that contain and build that windmill.


  1. Great post Duncan, gives me some understanding as to why you change your mind every now and then... I'll be reminding you of this from time to time ;)

    1. Haha! Thank you for that. Linda, glad you finally understand. And I'll print off a wallet-sized copy of the posting so that you can have it with you at all times when we're all together. :) Just teasing! Warm wishes. Duncan.

  2. Thoughtful and thought-provoking as ever Duncan - thank you! I need a wallet sized copy of this too, I well aware that I'm "thrawn" one minute, then change my mind at apparently random junctures....

    PS - One of the very few positive things I've read concerning big wind turbines :o)

    Warm wishes to you both

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Ian. "Random junctures" make up a good portion of my days. It's always kind of exciting to be surprised where one is going next! :) Warm wishes. Duncan.