Posted on

Read anything you can get your hands on

Liverpool Central Libraries – The Atrium on Light Night 2017

Reading books, magazines, articles and blog posts across a truly diverse range of topics is a huge help to stimulate novel ideas. This is, I think, the heart of a creative approach.

To be stimulated to generate new ideas, we need to draw from a wide range of influences. To achieve this, we should always read in fields or disciplines that are not familiar to us. I often read books that stretch my thinking, with a limited understanding of the topic.

Does it matter that I don’t understand? I don’t think so. I remember, for example, reading “Small is Beautiful” by E F Schumacher and only having the slightest grasp of the economic theories he was describing. I pushed on through and finished the book because it opened up the world of new ecology thinking and a whole way of thinking that I knew very little about when I read it in the 1990s. It set me off in many new directions, reading Fritjof Capra, for example – who I wouldn’t otherwise have come across.

Stretching our understanding, being open to ideas and letting them in so that we can absorb them to grasp them at a later date – like mental gymnastics. It doesn’t just happen when we read. A few years ago I asked an old school friend of mine, now a university lecturer in Mathematics, to explain String Theory to me. His description was beautifully clear and concise. I think I understood the concepts there and then – for about an hour or so, then it faded. But the clarity at the time was stunning.

There is a thought with Buddhist teachings, that as we receive the transmission from a great teacher, even if we don’t understand what we are hearing at a conscious and logical level, there will still be a shift at a deeper lever. This is a great way of describing this phenomenon. It’s always worth keeping our minds open to ideas, no matter how far removed from our current thinking they are. An open mind is a rigorous mind!

Advice to my three sons – read anything you can get your hands on. Oh, but do bear in mind that we have limited time in our lives, so don’t waste it reading things that don’t stretch us and show us something new. See reading as a sense of constant wonder. And enjoy.


Whilst you are here: have you seen my two books released this year?

Values Count is available from Amazon or directly from my website. It’s a book about values based approaches to work. Essential for anyone who wants to work with a strong sense of purpose.

Blue: Experiments in Sound is my latest collection of poetry with illustrations, the latest stories about Blue, the misanthropic 21st century man in search of a meaning. It is available in a limited edition from my website.


Posted on

A Biscuit Update

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, the post I published yesterday about Carl Henry and Half Man Half Biscuit  was seen by Carl and he dropped me an email today. Here’s what he said:

Huge surprise to see this appearing as one of your blogs, very many thanks for your compliments I feel very honoured.

Last week we (Biscuits) went down to Stowmarket for a benefit concert for ‘The John Peel Art Centre’. His wife arranged it and, before the concert, took us back to her house (Peel Acres) and treated us to dinner. We also got a guided tour of the great man’s record and CD collection. It was truly huge and he had a very unique catalogue system linked to a database.

Sheila was absolutely lovely and could not have done enough for us. It was a big treat and we went to his grave in the morning to pay respects. I was lucky enough to meet him on about 4 occasions and every time he just made you smile by the way he spoke as much as his humorous stories.

 Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for saying what you did about my ditties, I think we share the same passion for music judging by your playlists etc.

We played Cambridge the night after and here is a (low-fi) extract that somebody captured on their phone. One of the best (and worst) aspects of smartphones is that people instantly publish and broadcast your entire performance without you having a say in the matter. Great if you perform well but not if you have a stinker – it keeps us on our toes”

It was great to hear from Carl, and fascinating to hear that he has been down to Peel Acres. Lucky man!

Posted on

Everything we want to know whenever we want to know it

Yesterday I was reading through some study notes I made back in 1998. I wrote with great excitement about the fact that I was going to be able to access the internet from home, not just in the office. It was a big deal. And now, 15 years later, the internet is on the TV, on the laptop, the iPad, the mobile phone. It’s all around us.

And what do I love most about this? The fact that the curious mind can always find an answer. It’s almost impossible to come up with a question and not be able to answer it somewhere on the internet. OK, there are some people from my past who I have lost touch with who don’t seem to have much of an internet presence. But wanting to know the name of a piece of music, where a place is, how to get hold of something.

It’s all there, accessible in seconds. So, for the first time in history we can feed our insatiable appetite for knowledge. Our curiosity can be fed whenever we want. How amazing!


Posted on

Leonardo – so much influence from so few paintings

'Madonna Litta' by Leonard da Vinci
'Madonna Litta' by Leonardo da Vinci

I’m reading Michael Gelb‘s ‘How to think like Leonardo da Vinci’ which is an excellent book. I’m working through many of the exercises and finding them deeply inspiring. Over the weekend I did the 100 Questions exercise. It’s simple – in one sitting write down 100 questions in your journal that are signficant to you. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling, and don’t worry if they are repetitive. This was a really powerful exercise. I’ve extended the exercise a bit by getting hold of a new notebook where I am going to generate thought-pieces on each of the questions, unpacking what they mean to me.

Anyway, the reason for this post was to highlight one small fact which I came across in the Gelb book, which staggered me. There are only 17 paintings by Leonardo da Vinci which have survived – that’s an amazingly small number. We all know many of these paintings. Of these, several are not finished!

Leonardo also produced an enormous volume of notebooks and drawings. But it’s the idea that he has developed such a formidable reputation as a painter from such a small body of work.

Posted on

Fascinating facts # 1

I like to buy magazines that I wouldn’t normally buy every now and then. It is a great way to nurture creativity and to get the brain thinking in ways that are different.

Recently I bought an issue of ‘BBC Focus’ magazine, which is a science and technology magazine here in the UK, produced by the Public Broadcaster. It is full of fascinating facts.

There is a whole section on atoms, which includes this which I thought was really mind-warping:

“Atoms are 99.9% empty space. If all the space was sucked out of the atoms in your body, you’d shrink to the size of a grain of salt. If you did the same thing to the entire human race then all six billion of us would fit inside a single apple.”

I’m doing a series on Buddhism on this blog at the moment. This fact about atoms conjures all sorts of ideas about us being full of emptiness, and the idea that we can all fit inside an apple is a beautiful way of looking at the connectivity of us all.