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Listen to everything. Read as much as you can.

In On Connection, which I read a few years ago, Kae Tempest says:

If you are moved by a rapper that you listen to on YouTube, it’s really not a big deal. You shouldn’t have to apologise for it in literary environments. The same is true if you love a classical poet. It isn’t the case that you need to approach lauded works on bended knee. The pool of influence you draw from does not have to meet the approval of an academy or an institution, or be bound by the parameters of a genre, sub-genre or ‘movement’. Listen to everything. Read as much as you can. Try to stay present and connected with whatever you’re engaging with when you’re engaging with it.

I have a letterpress Faber print from On Connection above my desk, but it isn’t this quotation. Readwise reminded me of this one this morning.

It made me feel briefly guilty about admitting yesterday to abandoning a book. I’m pretty certain that’s the opposite of Tempest’s intention: I think the piece is intended to encourage us to unashamedly lean into the things we enjoy… but I am narrowing my gaze by abandoning a book from a genre I didn’t really enjoy?

I do try to challenge myself—I’ve even tried a bit of science fiction recently, despite it being a genre that I don’t usually enjoy. Indeed, Tempest’s book itself was an example of that, as poetry isn’t normally my thing.

Where’s the balance between leaning into things that we enjoy and continually challenging ourselves to expand our palate and mind?

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, Quotes, .

Murakami on reflection

At this time of year, along with the majority of medics, my thoughts are turning a lot to the process of reflecting on clinical practice. This is something that I think most of us do most of the time, but written reflections form a mandatory part of continuing professional development for most medics. Many of us fail to keep on top of them, and end up with a glut to write towards the end of the financial year.

I’m also currently reading Haruki Murakami’s Novelist as a Vocation. I’ll tell you more about that when I’ve finished it, but I wanted to feature this passage (actually, two concatenated passages) where Murakami is giving advice to aspiring novelists on reflecting on their everyday experiences. It’s as good a description as I’ve read anywhere of the process of reflection, and so really resonated with me.

Make a habit of looking at things and events in more detail. Observe what is going on around you and the people you encounter as closely and as deeply as you can. Reflect on what you see. Remember, though, that to reflect is not to rush to determine the rights and wrongs or merits and demerits of what and whom you are observing. Try to consciously refrain from value judgements—conclusions can come later.

I strive to maintain as complete an image as possible of the scene I have observed, the person I have met, the experience I have undergone, regarding it as a singular ‘sample,’ a kind of test case, as it were. I can go back and look at it again later, when my feelings have settled down and there is less urgency, this time inspecting it from a variety of angles. Finally, if and when it seems called for, I can draw my own conclusions.

I really liked this description, but it was Murakami’s next paragraph that completely stopped me in my tracks:

Nevertheless, based on my own experience, I have found that the occasions when conclusions must be drawn are far less numerous than we tend to assume. Indeed, the times when judgements are truly necessary—whether in the short or the long run—are few and far between. That’s the way I feel, anyway. This means that when I read the paper or watch the news on TV, I have a hard time swallowing the reporters’ rush to give opinions on anything and everything. ‘Come on, guys,’ I feel like saying, ‘what’s the big hurry?’

When Wendy and I are watching the news on TV, we frequently comment “It’s not though, is it?’ in response to opinions given by reporters who get caught up in their story’s importance. It irritates us when reporters give commentaries that a moment’s thought would dismiss: ‘this is the most serious crime of the decade,’ ‘this is the biggest political crisis since the second world war,’ ‘this is a make-or-break moment for the political party,’ and that kind of thing.

I’d never before made the connection between thinking reflectively and avoiding a rush to judgement. Now that it has been pointed out, it’s obvious—but reading the above passage was a definite ‘aha’ moment for me, a moment that allowed to see a connection between disparate ideas for the first time.

The picture at the top of this post is an AI-generated image for the prompt ‘a photo of a doctor looking pensive in a mirror’ created by OpenAI’s DALL-E 2. The mirror is a pun on the word ‘reflection,’ just in case that’s not immediately obvious. There’s nothing funnier than a joke that has to be explained.

This post was filed under: Health, Post-a-day 2023, Quotes, , .

Science communication, Question Time and Melanie Phillips

Melanie Phillips has been on Question Time twice as often as all scientists put together over the last 18 months. There is still this feeling of “Why would you put a scientist on a current affairs discussion programme?”

Mark Henderson, formerly science editor at The Times, but now with the Wellcome Trust, makes this interesting point in a piece about the media coverage surrounding the discovery of the Higgs boson. It was published in the eighth issue of the marvellous Delayed Gratification.

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, Media, Quotes, , , .

Politicians set about slashing swathes of funding for much-loved services

After the council meeting was re-adjourned politicians set about slashing swathes of funding for much-loved services.

I assume that this sentence from this article in my home-town newspaper, is an indirect quote from one of the protesters rather than a representation of the view of the newspaper. However, an unfortunate preceding paragraph break makes it appear more like the latter.

The fact that this actually made me laugh out loud probably says more about me than the newspaper.

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, Quotes.

How to lecture medical students

Lectures can, in short, bring a subject alive and make it more meaningful. Alternatively, they can kill it.

A true, but not altogether encouraging, sentiment in this excellent 2001 paper by Brown and Manogue, sent to me by Newcastle Medical School to help me prepare my first big scary lecture for their students.

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, Health, Quotes, University, .

On guns in the USA

Ponder the fact that I cannot walk into a pharmacy and purchase six packages of Sudafed, but I can walk into a gun dealership and purchase a .50 caliber rifle of the sort that U.S. snipers use in Afghanistan. In fact, I can buy ten.

Patrick Radden Keefe writing about gun control for The New Yorker.

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, Quotes, , , , .

Jesus, the jungle and Nadine Dorries

I am not an MP for any reason other than because God wants me to be. I constantly try to do what Jesus would do.

So said Nadine Dorries in 2007. Obviously, Jesus has now recommended that Dorries abandons her constituents and takes a month off her regular job (while retaining a full £65,738 salary) to earn about £40,000 appearing on a tacky reality television show. God certainly works in mysterious ways!

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, News and Comment, Politics, Quotes, .

Ryanair passengers are idiots who should bugger off

She’s an idiot. It was her fuck-up. We say quite politely to passengers like her: “bugger off”!

I’m no fan of Ryanair, but Michael O’Leary’s appalling public response to his airline’s disproportionate and punitive fees for printing a boarding pass at the airport is, at least, appealingly honest.

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, Quotes.

Fundamentally changing what it means to go on holiday

It fundamentally changes what it means to go on holiday.

It seems it’s a day for hilarious quotes today: following on from this that I spotted a couple of hours ago, this ludicrous bit of hyperbole from Daniel Danker also made me laugh out loud. If, for you, being able to download BBC TV programmes to your iPhone or iPad genuinely changes what it means to go on holiday… well, I doubt we’d get on very well.

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, Quotes, Technology.

For anyone that thought the new Microsoft logo was boring I can’t imagine what this must be like

For anyone that thought the new Microsoft logo was boring I can’t imagine what this must be like.

This comment in a review of Avis’s re-brand by Armin Vit over at Brand New actually made me laugh out loud.

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, Quotes, .

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