In Sweden, where I guest lecture at a University and give the occasional public talk, attendees to my “wisdom” often describe me as an “inspirational speaker”. I usually laugh embarrassedly at this, mumble something or other that denies it flatly, and quickly change the subject. I know that the Swedes often use this description, and actually look for “inspirational” speakers quite extensively.

But the latest such compliment by a student a few days ago set me thinking about what makes for inspiration.

And here I do not mean the high-flown poetic variety, tragedy-driven and egged along by mythological, Greek women deities, but rather that subtle something that someone says that changes the way we think or feel. It is such a precious moment that happens so quietly at times that we almost miss it, but feel it inside like a little motor, fuelling the very essence of being.

Inspiration can, of course, be found in obvious sources. The late, much mourned, Fr Peter, for example, would inspire me whenever he spoke … drive me on to creativity that might have slept on had he not encouraged with a word, massaged a saddened ego with a compliment, analysed with incredible, learned depth the implications of whatever it was he was inspiring.

Inspiration can be found in the throwaway words of a blog (not this one), or an aphorism, inserted almost unthinkingly into a long, meandering conversation.

Inspiration can be anything and everything, though any charm and charisma wielded by the inspirer go quite a long way towards digging into the character-set, deeply ingrained and (we think, till we’re inspired to think otherwise) totally immovable.

And then there are, of course, those who are the antithesis of inspiration. The bullies with an agenda that self-serves in everything they do, and floods all their interactions with others. We know them very well, of course. At work, in society, in politics … people who act as dampers of inspiration, their very presence and their bland, precise, egotistical words (often sugary and creamy though they might be) seeding darkness and the blocking of promise even in the most promising of creative urges.

This is where I pause to shudder violently for a while.

So, I suppose, I should at least be happy not to be considered a part of this last category. And if at any point in time, as a lecturer, or as a writer, or even as a cartoonist, I’ve touched lives with anything that provoked a positive thought, then I find that to be more inspirational to myself than anything else I might have done in life.

To blog or not to blog…

It was categorically not my intention to start a regular blog.

I’ve studied them academically as I am keenly interested in the effect of social networking and interactive online tools in my academic research.

I have read a number of them along the years and have a few favourites I revisit quite frequently.

There are a few I shy away from as if they carry the plague. Well, the plague is probably preferable to the people who write them (and this was written with a distinct shudder!)

I’ve even been to learned conferences that discussed them … I still remember Stephen Downes fighting it out with Rob Koper in Barcelona a few years back. The first, a “blogosphere-prophet” academic with a vision that immediately saw the importance of the tools afforded by Web 2.0, and the second a solid, respected academic from the Dutch Open University. Downes had objected to the much more controlled vision of Koper’s research. He preferred emphasising the epistemological nature of what had become the Internet.

In any case, both had valid points, and this is not the place to go into analysing who “won”. I’m just saying that my flirtations with blogs have always been platonic … an affair that was read about and heard of in gossip rather than experienced. No explosive heat of passion, just curiosity.

And yet the reaction to my first posting yesterday was so positive, with two dear friends even posting comments on it and egging me on, and the likes on Facebook tallying up, that I might just go for it. No, not daily. Not even regularly, but whenever I feel like it. Maybe not for weeks. Or twice a day.

And it will be about all and sundry – hence the tagline “Of this, that… and the occasional cartoon.” Maybe I’ll just cartoon my blog one of these days, or photograph it, or just enjoy wallowing in the composition of words. One of the simpler joys of life.

Do not expect pearls of wisdom. But the occasional chuckle or nod of the head can be entertained.


… the most auspicious of blogging starts.

A friend asked for help with setting up a blog, and I’ve set mine up to find out how. The why is clear and has been since Web 2.0 decided it wanted to change what interacting online was all about – basically moving from one-way traffic to Maltese traffic. That is, everywhere and all over the place, not necessarily in the direction it’s supposed to go, nor that is humanly possible to go. It just goes. Everywhere.

So blogging democratised the Internet universe, making it all ours to scream in, laugh in, moan at everything in. Suddenly be professional grouches and die little deaths in. Rant and be political. Or just shed a tear for a lost love. Shout raucously with laughter, or just titter  embarrassedly in ways that avatars and constructed personas only can permit.

So this is my first blog. Might be my last for a long while. Not much time to write. Too much research to be done. Too many corrections. And a children’s book is waiting to be finished … well, two, actually. Or is it three?

I won’t be missed. Blogs are like the small branches on trees in a massive forest. So many out there that not even Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs can signpost a way out if you initially go in.

And there’s more than one wicked witch. Lots more.

A blog less means the tip of one small branch on one of the trees is missing.

Might decide to cultivate it later, though…