Monday, 10 March 2014



The poem by 17th century poet Andrew Marvell starts
“Had we but world enough and time
this coyness, lady, were no crime”

It’s a blatant try-on, though as knicker-dropping appeals go it’s pretty compelling. But since we now live in a global environment we have plenty of “world”, few of us are coy (indeed if you read the Times this week you’ll have seen one night stands are all the thing at the University of Oxford – they call it recreational, consensual sex – with Exeter College as the naughtiest and least coy place of all….check it out.

And the tone of the poem would have meant young Mr Marvell having his ruff fingered by officers from Operation Yew Tree if he tried this ploy on today.
As for time we live in a do-it-now, hurry-hurry, get-‘em-off world where the default speed is warp drive.
That’s the world of now, the much vaunted “mindfulness” arena in which we are performing and making our decisions. The trouble is human beings are hopeless at predicting the future and are congenitally over-optimistic. This leads to over runs, missed deadlines, embarrassing statements in parliament and overall disappointment.
The consequences of what we do now (the mindful place) in this hurry-hurry world also has a nasty habit of coming back to sting us. Hence the headline from hell for the Met in Friday’s Times:
“You can’t trust Police”

Twenty years ago some decisions and catastrophic judgements were being made in the Lawrence enquiry that will continue to stain reputations for years to come. It’s beyond quick fixing.
Operation Yew Tree again. Foraging into the mental dustbins of the Andrew Marvell’s of the 1970s is leading to some unsavoury stuff and some weird court cases.  What probably started as a series of fumbles has resulted in a long drawn out set of nasty consequences.

And here’s my big problem with mindfulness. Whilst carpe diem is quite the zeitgeist thing, it’s also very dangerous. Being body conscious and in the present was just what Andrew Marvell was getting at in the 1650’s.
But what we should be learning is the need for “thoughtfulness” not mindfulness; the need for understanding the learnings from history and the potential impact in the future of the actions and decisions we make now. The Richard Branson philosophy of “screw it let’s do it”, which sounds like the anthem of the grubby recent past, won’t do at all.
We live in complex times and the unravelling of the reputations of all our institutions – parliament, police, church, media, banks and big business have been induced by a “screw let’s do it” attitude.
Unless we start to think a bit harder and guard against being randomly impulsive we’ll have to sweep up a lot more reputational debris as we rebuild trust.

And that rebuilding of trust and reputation will take time – a very long time.

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