Common English does not maintain very many words to describe or explore states of consciousness - where it does, they escape common parlance. Writers who wish to express states of mind in English often do not use the words we have; they invent new words, or hint around at the outside of states to try to express concepts relating to mind. This tells me that our culture does not spend very much time considering mind, or time considering the shape or intentions of our thoughts.

Where do we find words like mushin in native English without borrowing from another culture? Consider - how many words (besides feelings) come to you when you try to describe the general shape - not the content, but the shape - of what is going on inside your head? Patrick Rothfuss borrows Alar and changes it to express the concept of an iron-strong belief in his writing, Frank Herbert lifts spannugsbogen from German and uses it to describe a people trained in the art of waiting for a thing desired before reaching for it.

We adopt words like zeitgeist and zen into our language, but our language is ultimately a borrower - you don't find many natively english terms for such concepts, we lift them from other languages and cultures perhaps because we don't spend the time reflecting on such things necessary to originate new words in that vein.

Language has so few words used day to day, but those words are used so frequently. How many of us can remember the shadings of meaning between strath and glen, or even imagine having the desire to express that distinction? General English can be expressed in a few thousand words, and not very many of us bother to use much more than this or to consider the history of our words. This is common across most languages - but these questions strike me as worth reflecting on:

Why is it necessary for good communicators to limit themselves to using only the common vernacular everyone uses if they wish to be understood?
What does this say about the human mind?
Why the vast difference between active and passive vocabulary?

Old age is a blessing.

With the passing of time, the sharp edges of life diminish, and age’s perspective on the universe stands out crisply against a rich background of memories. We can move more easily through a world we have come to know, and we can appreciate time simply reflecting on the many lessons of life.

Yet the frailty of age can also be a curse. With every passing year, we feel our mortality. We come to know a gradual diminishing of the capabilities of youth. The exhuberant energy that we all possess so briefly must be spent building a rich foundation of experiences to appreciate, or old age becomes nothing but bitter regret for mispent youth.

In youth, we hear the first notes of life’s music, but we have never learned how to dance. At first, that music seems full of chaos, and in trying to dance to it we are graceless. We stumble and we fall.

In our middle years we remember from our youth the boundless energy, and the difficult pain of our stumbles from before we learn our first dance is fresh in our mind. But we need to keep in mind that for youth, recovery is quick and creativity is boundless. The energy is there for youth to flail forward in search of something that fits, and in stumbling untutored they gain something far more than the mere knowledge of how to move gracefully as you do - they give birth to something new.

Youth doesn't last long - soon everyone crafts patterns out of the chaos of their first steps, and then life often becomes less about stumbling and more about perfecting that first dance. It is easy to fall out of the frenetic whirl of youthful exuberance into the measured cadence of whatever adulthood pattern we define for ourselves. Learning that first sequence is a difficult journey through stubbed toes, and we are a culture obsessed with the avoidance of suffering. Yet we forget that pain is one of life’s best teachers, and gives meaning to that accomplishment beyond any easy lesson.

The first dance learned is most important, for when we reach this point, most of us just keep on with that first dance. Why venture back to that gracelessness, especially when we feel the fading of youth? We are comfortable, and that first dance just gets easier with more practice. We finally fit into the world, and we are detered by the memory of the pain along the way to where we are.

We dance on, and while those steps fit well initially they soon become a well-worn groove on our soul. Whenever we try a new dance, we are reminded we are graceless again, we rediscover suffering, and we quickly return to what we know. Eventually, we come to believe that we are incapable of moving in any other way.

But the best dancers focus instead on the lessons, recognize the teacher in adversity, and always keep learning new patterns. They will stumble and fall far more than those working to perfect what they know, but every with every stumble they learn more. They keep pace with the creativity of the world by constantly learning. Instead of perfecting one pattern that inevitably falls out of sync with the new dances of youth, they adapt themselves endlessly to fit into the overall music of life as it shifts. For all lessons lend themselves to each other, and dancing is really about learning to dance.

This choice represents a harder road, and it breaks with our culture of avoiding suffering. But, it is the one that transforms age from confusion to wisdom. Those who walk this road have nothing to fear from their twilight years, adapt to life and accept it with grace.

It’s easy to want to teach others the dance we know when we see them stumbling along in confusion. But we must not forget the lessons learned in suffering, and we should approach the world with humility in what we have yet to learn instead of pride in what we know. If we truly want to help others, we should teach each other to appreciate learning itself; the fine art of extracting wisdom and grace from the inevitable suffering of life.

Life, like dancing, is about change. And there's limited use in teaching what worked yesterday when we are in the process of inventing what will work tomorrow.
So, this week I got to go check out Cork, Ireland on a company paid trip. I gave a short talk on what it's like to work in a security operations centre to a mixed group of CIT students, hackers, & security enthusiasts, but other than that my time was largely open. I spent a good amount of time exploring around inside the city, which was absolutely beautiful this time of year.

The pictures here are mostly taken from around the CIT campus, which sits right downtown Cork, or from the River Lee Hotel just upstream. I was really impressed with the green space inside the city proper - lots of old growth trees with trunk diameters measured in meters, and tons of parks. Picnics seemed to be a thing there - even when I was down by the skate park, there were a lot of people just out enjoying the sunshine.

I'd be remiss as well if I didn't mention the coffee - literally every place I went to during my exploring did it well, with some places doing it very well. It was just a standard thing for even small restaurants serving coffee to do so from an espresso bar.

Climate data for Cork (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 16.1
Average high °C (°F) 8.2
Daily mean °C (°F) 5.6
Average low °C (°F) 3.0
Record low °C (°F) −8.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 131.4
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1 mm) 16 13 14 11 12 10 10 11 11 15 14 15 152
Average relative humidity (%) 90 89 88 83 81 81 83 85 88 90 91 91 86.7
Mean monthly sunshine hours 55.8 67.8 102.3 159.0 192.2 174.0 167.4 161.2 129.0 93 69 52.7 1,423.4
Source: [1]
  1. Harmonia Mundi
  2. Angela Hewitt