Top Gun, what a classic. Fighter pilots, men in uniform, men out of uniform, aviator sunnies with cheeky handles like “Iceman”, “Viper”, “Goose” and “Maverick”. It also gifted us some great lines, one of which I have borrowed and contorted for my own nefarious blog purposes. So whilst the remaining MiGs bug out, here’s a fantastic compilation video of Top Gun scenes with the song that has been playing in my head ever since I thought of the heading for this post.
I’m not going to be shooting down any enemy planes today, but I do feel invigorated. Why? Because today I refound my passion for reading books. This folks, is a big deal, huge, phenominal even!
To put this in context, a couple of years ago I used to be a voracious book reader, running at two to three a week. Mostly veg books, to use the expression of my fellow blogger, Eagle Eyed Editor. After a long day reading copious quantities of heavy and dry business material, I craved the escapist world of veg books, no thinking required, just pure emotion and verbage. All my books were paper books and I loved thumbing the pages, loved looking at the well used spines lined up like sentinels on my book shelf and loved rereading my favourites when the mood struck.
And then I stopped. Cold. I flirted briefly with reading some non-fiction books, but I never became so deeply immersed as when my imagination was ignited by fiction. The only real explanation I can think of why is that slowly or possibly not so slowly my reading habits changed from paper to online. Suddenly my reading became centered around blogs of all kinds, personal blogs of my WordPress friends, blogs about management and leadership, blogs about marketing and social media, newspaper and journalistic blogs, blogs about writing, and blogs about blogs!
image from microsoft clipart
Most of the material was and is engaging and it is material that as an Australian I would never have had access to before the online age. Suddenly there was a whole new world to explore and learn from. And it was all free and accessible whenever I needed. But I think it came at a price.
Blog pieces, or at least the best blog pieces, are less than a thousand words long and possibly even shorter than that. They are short sound bytes designed to tantalize and entertain and much territory could be covered in the space of an hour online. Get to the point and prove your expertise quickly or find yourself in the middle of a cavernous snoozefest. During my blog hopping phase I did pick up a book or three in the hope that I would once again find my reading passion and the buzz of immersion. Maybe they were the wrong books or maybe it was the environment, but more often than not I found myself stopping after five pages. That was until I read a couple of recent books, including the book I discussed in my last blog post
Today, my journey back to the book world reached a pivotal point, for today I wondered into my favorite bookshop. It is in fact the last of the giant bookstores in my city, three levels of tomes, stacked on pallets, stacked on shelves, well…just stacked! Today there was a promotion for a classical music CD taking place when I walked in and the sounds of a soulful cello played. The musician was in store with his cello and there was a buzz. Customers and store clerks milled about and there was some serious browsing taking place in the aisles.
Gratuitous aviator sunnies pic
I felt like it was almost a spiritual experience with a real sense of it feeling right. I savoured reading the book jackets and combing the shelves for an hour and I am happy to say came away with three books to read. It is time to be immersed, to be transported. It is time to read the marathon after a long time spent sprinting. I am revelling in this sense of anticipation and looking forward to getting reacquainted with turning pages, sneakily reading ahead and shutting the book cover when the last full stop has been read.
It is time to feed the need, the need to read!
Did you find the internet impacting your reading habits? Do you love to read? Do you sneakily read ahead?
Firstly, let me apologise for my absence from blogdom all week. It’s been one of those introspective weeks where I have been trying to make sense of it all. Much needed and no doubt some of this introspection will find its way here at some point. Raising that Curtain just a little bit higher requires a fair bit of energy and my writing has been impacted. Coupled with that is trying to ascertain where my true blog voice lies. This week has been about searching for answers or at least trying to narrow the breadth of questions.
As a part of that process I went for a trek out bush. Nature has a way of providing cues and motivation and on this occasion it didn’t disappoint. One of my bluggies (blog buddies), dearanonymousfriend, through her comments inspired me to take photos of some of our non-coastal landscapes. I hope you find the results as pleasing as the coastal photos.
The photos are from an area called the Blue Mountains which is famous for its escarpment and a rock formation called the Three Sisters, for obvious reasons. On the day we descended the Giant Stairway through the Three Sisters to the floor of the Jamison Valley below. The Stairway is carved into the cliff face and comprises 911 stairs with a drop of almost 300 metres. The expression “jelly legs” was very much at the fore of our minds. Once at the bottom we walked the Federal Pass along the base of the escarpment, a walk of about 3.1 km. The walk is not unduly difficult but does require a fair degree of fitness and I absolutely recommend it if you are thinking of playing tourist here.
Apart from breathing in the fresh mountain air and scouting photo ops, I was happy to be travelling along a discernible path. One that left no doubts about the direction of travel, one that ended at a meaningful destination, in this case, the Scenic Railway. Whilst there were side paths, they were less developed and the destination a little more uncertain. How many of us are searching for that path to that meaningful destination? I don’t need a path that is necessary well-travelled, I am happy to be a pioneer to an extent. But I am one that needs to understand the destination if only in an oblique sense and to be able to see a few steps in front of me.
One thing the trek taught me is that to be able to discover that next path, I need to be mindful of both the forest and the trees. The bigger picture and each individual element is equally as important and needs to be savoured. It also taught me that symbiosis is often necessary to maximise opportunities.
Do you like to pioneer or go down a path more travelled?
When Steve Jobs passed away I, along with millions of others, watched his Stamford 2005 Commencement Address on YouTube. Whatever else you may think of Steve Jobs, his words in that speech were profound and the message strong and important. I have always wondered what I would say to a graduating class if asked. I know the request is in the mail and one day the postman will discover my mail box. I’m right here, see… waiving at you!
An opportunity arose recently for me to write a letter to my 17 year old son, reflecting on the impending conclusion of his formal school education and journey through the books…. and stationery. Let’s not forget the stationery, you’re looking at a HUGE fan of stationary. Stationery porn is so evil and so, so goooood! But I digress.
My son is in his last year of high school and facing the biggest academic test of his young life in November. Unlike the US, entry into university here is usually totally based on the score in this particular exam (called the HSC), which takes place at the end of year 12. There are no individually tailored university entry applications, no essays and no interviews. You are a score, that’s it.
The school took the boys away on a 3 days retreat to reflect. As part of that retreat parents were asked to write a letter to their sons which was to be given to them on the last day as a surprise. This folks, is my kind of homework. At last I had the opportunity to articulate in the written word, my thoughts, hopes, aspirations and gratitude to my offspring.
Let me share a version of what I wrote. The letter is from both the Italian Stallion and I:
We were so glad when the school gave us an opportunity to write this letter to you. By the time you read this your retreat will be almost over and the next phase of your road to the HSC will begin. We hope you have had time to relax after the effort you put in for the “minis” and to think about not only the future, but how far you have come since starting Kindergarten in 2000.
We know that this is both an exciting and scary time for you. Exciting because the end of your school years draws ever closer and come late November you will be able to ditch the uniforms and structure that has been with you for over twelve years. But with the excitement, there must also be a degree of trepidation about having to take responsibility for your academic future, about stepping into the adult world and all the inherent responsibility that those steps bring. You have every right to these emotions – they are a natural part of this phase of your life.
As you contemplate your future, we want you to know that we are proud of you. Whilst the journey has not always been easy, the strides that you have made towards maturity and taking ownership of your decisions over the last 18 months or so have been wondrous to watch. You are becoming quite the young man, a witty, intelligent, sensitive (that’s ok, you don’t need to admit that last one) guy who understands the meaning of family and team. We know that no matter how hard Mum [me] tries, her cooking will never match your grandmothers’, but we truly appreciate how you act towards and deal with your grandparents. Then there is the relationship with your brother, a quirky little brother who looks up to you and for whom you look out for, even it if it is on the sly.
We hope you take with you in life the skills you have learned in baseball. One of Mum’s best memories of recent times has been on the drive with you to [XXXX]. Mum will never forget that you discovered live baseball streamed radio together and that she was with you when Albert Pujols made his debut for the Angels. Your baseball talents are many and whilst it has taken a back seat this year because of study, we know that if you want to pour your energies into it, you will succeed. Whether it is as an outfielder or a pitcher the baseball world is yours for the taking. But above all, we hope that you keep having fun with baseball. Remember, no matter what T-shirts or baseball caps Mum wears, it’s Red Sox forever and we WILL get back to Fenway one day in the not too distant future.
So, as you approach the HSC and the culmination of 13 years of schooling, all we ask of you is that you approach these next six months with a view to doing your best and being the best you can possibly be. The final result doesn’t matter as long as you have done your very best. We say this because whilst the HSC is important, life will throw you bigger tests. The mark of a true man is how he faces these tests – results are always secondary. You should obviously aim to achieve the mark you need in the HSC for your chosen field of university study and put all your energy into that aim. However, the HSC is not the only gateway to achieving your academic goals, there are other less direct ways. The HSC gateway though is the one where you play centre stage, where you receive the maximum support and mentorship and takes the least amount of time. J, the HSC is both a test and an opportunity and we hope you see it as such.
Whatever you decide to do after school, we want you to be happy. Look inside yourself and identify your passions, the things that make your soul sing and follow the path where these shall lead. Live YOUR dreams and no-one else’s. For this, J is THE secret to happiness and fulfilment.
For the journey over the next six months, take with you our (and your brother’s) support, cheering from the sidelines and most of all, our love. Think big and dream large, your options are many. Thank you for being our son, for adding your uniqueness to our family. Thank you for making us laugh and keeping us on our toes. Thank you for being responsible and for (the most part) being a good example to your brother. Thank you for texting your Mum at 12.06am on new year’s eve to wish us happy new year on our first new year’s eve apart. These are the fundamentals that will make you the good man you are destined to be. You rock (even if your music sucks!).
We love you always
And the response? “It was good”. Three little words with such power that had me soaring.
What message would you send in similar circumstances?