online: 06 october 2003

5 october 2003 human actions

14:45 Outdoor cafe. Cold but sunny day. North wind. Cloudless sky. There are many people here perhaps from further away than usual - I was one of more than 50 people who left the train at Hampstead Heath station. I guess there are thousands here today. It's Sunday afternoon.

A tall man is bending down to hold the hands of a small child who is barely able to climb some low steps - but he or she seems very keen to attempt it, again and again. Everyone else is walking, sitting, eating, drinking, talking, with highly developed skills and none of the child's self-conscious efforts of first-time learning. Most of what we do is by now automatic - and to me a miracle.

I've spent much of my life observing skills, and attempting to design things accordingly. I am often amazed or annoyed by our collective inability to construct a form of life to accord with our own abilities and limits. Industrial life could be wonderful - but often it's the opposite.

As I wrote that paragraph a sycamore seed fell onto my sleeve. I look up and I see only a larch above me. But I can see some sycamores about 30 metres away. I am surprised to see that a seed, spinning with its single wing, can fly that far from the tree. It's angle of descent must be about 30 degrees.

I put the seed in my bag and decide to give it an unnatural advantage by carrying it to a place where it is more likely to grow into a tree. Futile interference perhaps - but that is the apparent nature of many human actions, is it not? Do we ever know what we are doing?

On my way here I wrote a brief note about there being more to life than the fragile compromises achieved by political action . But I won't expand it here - it belongs, if anywhere, in a long piece I am writing in daffodil 23*, a theory of industrial living, as I call it. It's the restatement of an idea that's been with me since the 1950s - and it's also an attempted integration of my experience before and since. I'm wanting to get on with it as it's flowing well and is occupying my thoughts.

On my way back I let the sycamore seed fly into a fenced area in Ken Wood, not too shady... Now to get on with the theory.

*daffodil is my monthly news letter about new additions to this website - and its purpose. To receive it please send an email with the word 'subscribe' to: jcj at

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