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Childlike spirit

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”

– Pablo Picasso (25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973)

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CHILDREN are running around laughing as a street artist creates huge soap bubbles above their heads. They skip out of the way of them or jump up to pop them with smiles etched permanently on their faces. For them nothing else exists but this moment of pure fun.

This was the scene that I watched on the streets of Edinburgh during the Fringe (read my write-up on the world’s biggest arts festival here) this summer.

There was creativity in the air anyway thanks to thousands of writers, actors, comedians, dancers and other performers descending on the city which sits in the middle of rolling hills.

But it was perhaps nowhere more alive than in these children whose hearts were brimming with joy for the fun they were engaged in.

Creativity emanates from children. They truly know how to live.

For them the past and the future do not exist – only the now. They know no fear. They make the best of what they have. Their enthusiasm knows no bounds, nor does their imagination. They are bundles of energy operating on a high frequency. They love unconditionally. They let go. A smile is never usually far away.

When I was a kid I used to love to get on my bike and cycle with friends into the nearby countryside to climb trees and play on rope swings at the side of streams. Pretty much nothing could be finer except perhaps returning home to find butterscotch Angel Delight was for dessert.

So it’s disheartening to hear that large numbers of children in Britain aren’t connected to nature.

A new study by the RSPB found that only 21% of children between eight and 12 are exposed to the outdoors.

The charity’s head of conservation Sue Armstrong-Brow told the BBC that spoilsport adults were dampening children’s natural curiosity and love of nature.

She said: “There is definitely an attitude out there, in some cases, that nature is not perceived as interesting or engaging.

“In some cases it is perceived as a dirty or unsafe thing, and that’s an attitude that won’t help a young person climb a tree.”

She continued: “If we can grow a generation of children that have a connection to nature and do feel a sense of oneness with it, we then have the force for the future that can save nature and stop us living in a world where nature is declining.”

Nature is all about the creative force and it is that force that is inherently powerful in children and should be encouraged.

If that is lost then what hope is there?

For the children dancing in the bubbles in Edinburgh, where the magnificent greenery of Arthur’s Seat rises proudly in the distance, the force of nature is strong.

* If you’ve enjoyed reading this, please spend one day this month immersing yourself in and appreciating nature.

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All that exists is the moment

“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”

Rabindranath Tagore – Nobel Prize-winning Indian poet (1861 – 1941).

THE day just got a bit shorter.

The earthquake that hit Japan on Friday March 11 accelerated the Earth’s rotation and knocked time off our day.

NASA geophysicist Richard Gross found that the fault that sparked the quake slipped, redistributing the planet’s mass.

He told SPACE.com: “By changing the distribution of the Earth’s mass, the Japanese earthquake should have caused the Earth to rotate a bit faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 microseconds.”

We may find that the aftershocks of Japan’s quake could contribute additional microseconds lost.

“In theory, anything that redistributes the Earth’s mass will change the Earth’s rotation,” Gross said.

Two other earthquakes of a similar magnitude to the 9.0 have also speeded up the Earth’s rotation and shortened the day. Last year’s Chilean quake? We lost 1.26 microseconds. The 2004 Sumatra quake? A massive 6.8 microseconds.

I should point out that a microsecond is a millionth of a second. So not that much then, huh?

But every second (or microsecond) counts and we should make the most of the grains of sand we have before they slip away forever.

It certainly seems as if we don’t have as many hours in the day and that time is speeding up. And it has seemed that way for several years now.

Some friends explain it by saying time does seem to go faster as you get older. One friend suggested that the reason why the school holidays seem to stretch before you for infinity is because when you’re 10 (or 120 months), a few months is quite a huge chunk of your life. When you’re 20 or 30 or 60 or 70 that same measurement of time is but a small fraction of it.

A child’s mind is full of wonder. You’re learning constantly and every experience is new. Your mind is engaged. Everything is full of delight because everything is so new. So time seems to move slower.

Before the days of the Internet, and in its early years, time still seemed to be running at the same rate as it always had. It felt like there were more than enough hours in the day to do everything you needed or wanted to do.

Maybe this is because we were still extremely inquisitive and in order to find out about a particular subject we would have to delve into huge and heavy musty-smelling books or experience and work things out for ourselves.

Now many technologies have removed the need to work the logic and reason muscle in our brains. With GPS (which when I have been a passenger with friends have found to be extremely illogical and frustrating) the responsibility is removed from the human and puts it squarely with the machine. Therefore the knowledge is there, externally, outside ourselves. It’s instant. We don’t have to spend time figuring it out. The time we would have spent working a route out for ourselves on a map is gone, lost forever. It’s not about the journey any more, just about the destination.

With the increased permeation of the Internet and being constantly plugged in – via your phone, on Twitter, Facebook and all the other sites and applications that imperceptibly drain your time – it feels like there isn’t enough time to do anything. That’s because many of these distractions are time vampires. You can spend hours online and are at a loss at the end to know what you’ve actually done. You’ve merely had time sucked away.

It seems as if when we’re connected, it’s as if our true selves aren’t really there. It feels as if when we give ourselves over to certain activities like spending hours uploading photos of a night out we’re merely functioning on a kind of zombie level – we’re not living in the moment.

And when you’re not living in the moment then of course time seems to fly by, because it is. This moment – the now – is all that tangibly exists. And if we aren’t living the moment, then it’s speeding past us. But at the same time, you can be so lost in something amazing, so lost in the moment that time does moves faster.

Time is linked to perception. It can be argued very strongly that time doesn’t really exist. It was Albert Einstein and his theories of special and general relativity that showed time is an ‘illusion’. What appears to be a certain unit of time for one, is completely different for another.

Einstein, who met with Tagore (the writer I quoted at the beginning of this piece) and engaged in discussions into the nature of reality with him, said: “People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

Which, many scientists assert, is all the dimension of time is. They say time isn’t a concrete thing but is an abstraction solely dependent on an observer’s perspective and motion.

Go back to even Aristotle and he believed time wasn’t something that existed in of itself. He defined time as “a number of change in respect of the before and after.” To take his argument to the logical conclusion, he postulated that in order for there for to be ‘time’ there must be some being to count it. Therefore time is dependent on the observer and observers have their own vantage point.

As a result of the symbiotic relationship between time and change, Aristotle also said that anything that lasts forever doesn’t exist in time; it’s timeless.

When we think we are watching the sun set over the horizon, it has in fact already set eight or so minutes ago. The sun is 93 million miles away from Earth and light travels at a speed of 186, 282 miles per second, so it takes just over eight minutes for the light of the sun to reach us. When you think you’re watching the sun set, it’s a mirage that we take to be reality. The sun is already not there. But our experience of it in the now, not in time, is timeless.

The Japan quake has knocked ‘time’ off the day. But we lose a lot of time ourselves by not living in the moment.

The key to having enough time and making every second count is to fully appreciate the now.

When you are engaged in meaningful (by which I mean whatever is meaningful to your individual soul) activity, time is well spent. When you are fulfilling your purpose, your calling, whatever it is that feeling inside urges you to do, then you are living in the infinite moment.

When you are truly living in the now, your actions, your intentions, your energy are living in eternity. It’s all about quality not quantity.

The disaster in Japan surely makes one realise how important every moment of being is.

“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”

* IF you are inspired by these thoughts, please donate what you can to UNICEF, who are working to help children affected by the Japan earthquake.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a press statement: “As in all emergencies of such devastating magnitude, children are the most vulnerable.

“Working in close cooperation with the Japan Committee for UNICEF, we have offered our support to protect the children affected by this catastrophe and to provide critical services in the days ahead.”

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