And so, finally, here is episode seven, which is about the culmination of sixty years. It seems slightly unfair to have to write seven ten-yearly episodes for a sixty year life. At least this time, the news is easy to remember, even with a noticeably shortened span which begins to undermine my sense of establishment (as if I had one).
Besides the overwhelming impact of Trump combined with Brexit, and the effect of the Syrian war on migration and the related racist backlash, there were the Russian and Irish scandals of Rio, Shakespeare was 400, Shimon Peres died, Brazil got a new president, Jeremy Corbyn was elected and re-elected while Nigel Farage retired, resigned, won, retired and stood in again as leader of UKIP while drawing his MEP salaray for not attending the European Parliament he wanted the UK to leave… The political manipulation of fear has driven so much this year. The fear centres on territorial protection and unnamed threats to personal safety from people hungrier and more disenfranchised that ourselves. Looking back on episodes 1-6, I think socialism has been a dominant theme in my life, even though I don’t think I’ve ever put myself on the line for the welfare of anyone not close to me. But things have definitely shifted since Episode 6.
Between 2006 and now, so much has fallen away, or been rejected, or done the rejecting. Symbolically, perhaps, I’ve applied for Irish citizenship, having realised I no longer want to be British. The values which caused the vote for Brexit revolt me, and the people who espouse them are the same people who shouted abuse at me and my fellow marchers on Brick Lane in 1976 when we joined The Anti-Nazi League to put the British National Party back in its box. They were so much more obvious then, with their Union Jack teeshirts and shaved heads, but the smart suits and anti-immigration rhetoric change nothing.
Almost all my entanglements with voluntary organisations, committees and boards are gone. All those responsibilities abrogated. It’s been the most rewarding experience to let go. It’s been a conscious process in an unforgiving but demanding environment. Ireland’s tiger roared in 2006 and was skin and bones by 2010. The pottery diminished to a point where Groupon tickets became currency and parents bargained over the price of their children’s art classes, or simply kept their kids away.
I launched Custom Breaks Ireland in 2009, with support from some great and good people, into a globalising online tourist market and increasingly sophisticated Google model, which swallowed it and spat it out.
Then the recession receded and the pottery began to regenerate. A smart American arrived in a chaufeur driven car one day and offered to bring a weekly tour visit of 40 rich customers every summer, starting two years hence, which has turned out to be the lynchpin in the business.
Ger pulled me into Sponge It just when I needed a rock to hold on to, and I rediscovered my love of business, and my forgotten expert status. It should have felt tired and passe. It certainly sounded like a retrograde step, but somehow, this time, it didn’t feel bad. It wasn’t my business and ultimately, not my responsibility. I could do what I was good at and be paid and then step away. And I almost didn’t. One night I woke in a cold sweat after offering to take over running the company at the same time as accepting a place in the creative writing masters programme. It was a simple enough choice between the old and the new. Between holding on and letting go. I chose the masters, and cut back on the consulting, but there was no need to let go completely. Felim appointed me as a non-exec to his London publishing company and I started a research division for him. He bought a company based in Dublin and I became his non-exec there too. Sponge I became Opinions, and I moved back into the role of freelance Research Director there too. Back to doing what I’m good at for fees. But even with this regenerative experience, the letting go continues. Sometimes I worry that I will let go of it all and end up with nothing, become nothing. But each window I open to let out some stale air lets in bright light and fresh wind, and a view of a wider horizon. It would be great to stop seeing everything from one’s own eyes, and to begin to see things from the eyes of everyone else. That would really be letting go.
The A to Z of Letting Go (2011)
A is for Acceptance and authenticity, but also for arrogance, aspiration and anticipation
B is for Being, just being
C is change, consistency and character, the loss of which is not a pre-requisite for letting go
D spells definition, but let’s also look at defence and deferral. D is also for devotion
E must be for The Energy, but let’s not forget expectations, evolution, enervation and emasculation
F feels free
G is for growth and gain but also for grasp and greed
Happiness, a peaceful, powerful state which we can hope for in letting go.
I am the ego and self, I seek status and I must watch how I see myself. I is also for idea and for ideal
Jealous, Justice – and fighting injustice, Judgement: hinderances to letting go
K is for kindness – not philanthropy or patronage – kindred kindness
L is for lost and lonely, but also for love
M is for mother – try letting go of that! M is also for Maker, as in meet thy… M is for meaning and motivation
N…Nothing, nothingness nihilism, negativity and nastiness. N is for need and name
O for ordinary, opting out but mainly for openness, options, order
P is persistent and perseveres. P has purpose, perspective and purity
Q has to be for Question, and perhaps for quiet
R is for rage, but also respect, respite, reason and reality
S is for senses, sensitivity, surety and serenity. S is also for status, surprises and standards
T trusts and tolerates, but also tempts and tests
U represents utopia, but is also unseen, uncomfortable and unappreciated. U is for understanding, unravelling…
V for The Voice but also the vanity
W is whole, wise, washed. We wish and wait for this
Xist, xcite, xternalise… xcuses
Y oh why are we where we are? Whisper truths. Y is also for youth – letting go of this is hard
Z is the zenith and like omega, the completion of the journey.