This year, for me, is 3 Big Years, of writing, fitness and rock music. It should, oh it should, also include joining the war against coal. Nothing contributes more significantly and directly to the heating of our planet than the mining and burning of coal. We needed coal but that time is gone.
So . . . so not much. I’ll find a way to contribute dollars towards the anti-Adani campaign in Australia but this year’s time is taken. Sigh.
(Image from Michael Leunig’s website)
Birding is lamentably low on my priority list right now but I’m amazed I didn’t hear about “Flying for your life,” a fascinating 4-part podcast from Offtrack, a Radio National show. Time to catch up . . .
Obsessives like me can’t help but ponder whether we can become “master” of an activity we’re attracted to. Anders Ericsson’s notion of deliberate practice – dramatically focussed, specific, sustained training can make you a master – preoccupied my thoughts after his wonderful book came out last year. But surely, I whined internally, some things are not to be? I can never, for example, I reckoned, be an amazing birder because my eyesight is poor.
Well, in his blog article, “The myth and magic of deliberate practice,” James Clear endorses this caveat in spades. A third to a quarter of elite success is believed, by the experts, to be due to one’s genes.
Now, who amongst us ordinary folks aspires to elite success? Not I. But some of us do hunger for some kind of “mastery,” perhaps as a journey, and for us, the jury is out between the extremes of “anyone can” and “some of us are naturals.” Anders Ericsson is surely partly right but so is James Clear – what does this mean for us?
Wet boots drying after a Bogong High Plains ramble cut short by a deluge . . . reflection time . . . I didn’t enjoy this remote-ish hike as much as many I’ve done over the last half decade. Why?
I’m not sure. What seems exciting one year can suddenly pall, what takes one’s breath away can turn humdrum. Hiking comprises so many different pleasures – the challenge of hardship; nature’s beauty; peace and quiet; steady physical activity; the satisfaction of being organized and coping; camaraderie; a step out of normal city life . . . There are so many varieties of bushwalking, of different types and standards . . . I’m not sure if something is shifting in me or if I just need to hike more (which won’t happen this year).
In “Will We Miss Our Last Chance to Save the World from Climate Change,” a Jeff Goodell interview with James Hansen, one of my heroes captures two strands of my own thinking: (i) we can’t expect my generation to do anything much but our children should act now; and (ii) in the major country with two-party systems, the “conservatives” never do anything, yet the “liberals” talk the good talk but also can’t be bold enough.
Such a sweet day. One rollicking, fraught chapter of life – this blessed life augmented by my 2016 Big Years – ends. Tomorrow the next instalment thuds in.
A big year takes one or two passions, interests or wanna-dos and maxes out on them. I know that many of us prefer to dabble with all our areas of fascination, and if that’s you, well, maybe you’re right. I say this only because my 2016 and 2017 Big Years have shoved some of my preoccupations onto the back seat. I’m barely reading, hardly watch TV or film, just tinker with birdwatching, have almost ceased hiking, and as for doing community work, that’s for 2024!
I guess it’s a choice: flit from wonderment to wonderment, or focus for 365 days. I’ll stick with my Big Years.
Oh, the thrill of anticipation. Next year I’d cycle my heart out each and every day. Seven days a week, 180 kms a week, aiming for 8,000 kms over the year. I’d become a proper cyclist, a slick combination of human plus machine.
It’s not to be. I intended to retain some jogging capability, say twice a week, and I couldn’t bear zapping what little gains I’d made at the gym, so add two sessions a week there. All up, my 2017 week would contain 13 hours of vigorous exercise, 6 hours more than this year. A week or so ago, desperate to finish writing a chapter, I had a mild angst attack and the thought cropped up: if I’m panicking now, what will it be like next year? My 2017 Writing Big Year must – repeat, must and must – be top priority. I suddenly comprehended that the dream of a full-on cycling year was just that, a dream.
And my Plan B is?
Six days of birding in Tasmania. As Jonathan Franzen wrote (his first riveting New Yorker article back in 2005, “My bird problem“), “They made me happy like nothing outdoors ever had.” The current Big Years leave little room for ambitious birding (that’s the point, to prioritise) but a Birding Big Year awaits . . .