Episode 22: Exploring slowly – and questioning realities

The Salon is open!

Welcome to our last episode of 2022! We’re recording just before Christmas and do the Terribly British Thing by launching into talking about Christmas decorations and who’s got what version of which virus doing the rounds.

Fear not! Dear listeners – we are hale and hearty enough to chew through some of the things which are rippling our universes… Louise also drops the word ‘miasma’ – which is gloriously unexpected.

Jump in here for the full episode!

It’s not quite as unexpected as discovering that South Korea is about to change its aging system. We’re thoroughly amazed, and start inquiring into the differences between a South Korean ‘Two Year Old’ and a Western ‘Two Year Old’ – and what this might mean, especially as an entire nation would get a year older at the same time. We also get curious about what this means for celebrating individual’s birth event anniversaries and how we construct our reality in relation to people’s age. This is a complete blindspot in our knowledge – so if anyone with a better understanding of South Korean culture and tradition is listening, please get in touch!

If the way we age (at least in numbers) is socially constructed, then what does this tell us about the construction of reality around us? Louise has found a superb piece from the BBC, narrated by Anil Seth (whose book, Being You, Louise is loving). We start with thinking about colour, then back to South Korean aging and on into ancient glassware in Bristol Museum which also defies reality unless you pay attention… Louise also plugs The Perception Census which sounds amazing.

Our joint flabber is generally ghasted when Louise drops the morsel that in Canterbury, England, there wasn’t a Cathedral Girl’s Choir until 2014. In an age where the doors of the patriarchy are quite rightly being flung from their hinges, this seems a bit odd. Apparently (a later reading of the above BBC news report reveals), the Cathedral has a 1,000 year history and “it can sometimes take a little while for change to occur”. Quite.

We’re both amazed that the plan for the episode is panning out as we move towards some radical anthropology and the embedded environmental knowledge contained in ancient English place names. Louise ups the game with a find detailing how bird song created names for particular places, and we both wonder at how much we have lost by losing the connection with the meaning of these original naming patterns. If we can only decode these names, these signals, we both feel like that’s a new way of understanding our realities.

There’s a thread developing here… Louise recommends her second book of the episode – David Abrahams’ Spell of the Sensuous, which sounds awesome.

As we enter the second half of the pod’, we start to enquire into slowing down and how it might be to intentionally tune into the rhythms of the natural world around us. This leads us into a discussion around stretching, Buddhism, experiences of Zen Meditation on YouTube and Neil’s current intellectual love – the work of novelist Ruth Ozeki – which is just fabulous.

[Note – in the podcast, Neil says that Ruth is a Japanese-American writer. She is Japanese-Canadian. He then gets Thích Nhất Hạnh’s name wrong. Sincerest apologies on both counts]

Returning to one of our favourite themes of psychogeography, we give a quick shout out for a recent episode of The Deep Dive Podcast with Philip McKenzie & Lezlie Lowe. We’ll return to this in a future episode but if you’re the type of person who navigates cities by clean public restrooms, you’ll love it.

Sticking with podcasts, and swinging back by Ruth Ozeki, Neil happened upon a talk she gave to the San Francisco Zen Centre about her writing and experience as a Zen Buddhist Priest. What really stopped Neil in his tracks was the revelation that, in Buddhism, the mind is a sixth sense – which means that thoughts have the same weight as sounds or smells. Louise brings Anil Seth’s Being You back in, specifically around the roles of our emotions in navigating the world. It’s likely that we’ll return to this in a future episode as it’s a rich tapestry to be unfurled – so stay tuned!

Coming to the end of the podcast – it’s time to blur our realities with AI and let ChatGPT make an appearance. If you haven’t checked it out yet, do. From answers questions to writing (slightly dodgy) poetry, it is a fascinating tool for retrieving information in a human-like fashion.

Until the next time – come in, pull up a chair. The Salon is open!