A New Year’s Letter from Abbotstown (actually a postcard from Tasmania) to #IPAX

It is the height of Summer here in Australia. I hope you will excuse a Friday letter postcard from the beach.

I spent Christmas in Tasmania. Whilst I was there I read something that fascinated me and got me thinking how sport clubs (and organisations such as Sport Ireland) share their ideas about what will be.

The ‘something that I read’ appeared in a program for the annual Mona Festival of music and art. It was a preface written by David Walsh . I have emphasised the last two sentences of what he wrote.

I’m in Seville, a city I’ve not been to before. It’s splendid—one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. And everybody knows it. The locals are proud, the tourists are agog, the atmosphere is feverish. Christopher Columbus left for the new world from here, and he inadvertently brought back most of what makes Seville so spectacular.

Recently my wife spent some time doing art in Launceston. I was there with her, and found it to be enchanting. But it lacked the fever. While Mofo has been fetching flair for ten years now, and depositing it in Hobart, plenty has been happening in Launnie, but not many know it.

Launceston isn’t Seville, and Mona isn’t Christopher Columbus, but I am curious to see if we can raise the temperature in Launceston. There’s nothing more interesting than danger. And there is nothing more dangerous than a new world.

This got me thinking about the temperature of our work as analysts and how we find our sense of balance in our working rhythm. A balance between what we have been doing and the opportunity to find a new edge and edginess to our work.

I am hopeful that our Abbotstown group can share practice and help each other with different kinds of working practices. I am keen to be of service in this exploration. I do keep trying out new ideas that you may not have the time for. Most recently I have been looking at developing my use of RStudio and some of the visualisation packages available as open source resources.

I am hopeful that 2018 is the year when I master the Shiny application (“an elegant and powerful web framework for building web applications using R. Shiny helps you turn your analyses into interactive web applications without requiring HTML, CSS, or JavaScript knowledge”).

I think our edge is also honed by reading some difficult stuff. In my home town, Braidwood, there is a cafe with second hand books. Over coffee you can get stuck into some older print publications that you never see elsewhere.

Today, I came across Harold Blackham’s Six Existentialist Thinkers written in the year of my birth (1952). I studied philosophy at University so I am often attracted to books that explore second order thinking. Chapter 7 is titled A Philosophy of Personal Existence.

The chapter opens with this:

Philosophy … is astonished, meditative, measured preoccupation with the problem of existence perceived in its magnitude: its possible impossibility. (1952:149)

That made it a second cup of strong coffee book … and the opportunity to reflect on this observation:

existential philosophies are concerned with the manoeuvre of existing individuals whose being is ambiguous (both bound and free, separated and joined) in a total existence which is ambiguous (finite and infinite, end and means, a plentitude and nothing). (1952:153)

With the follow up:

A philosophy that is thus tolerant of discontinuities is not a philosophy of causal laws; it is a philosophy of essences. It is not concerned with explaining, nor changing, nor contemplating the world, but, rather, with lived participation in it. (1952:154)

I think I understand this argument but it did make for uncomfortable reading in the same way learning RStudio is making me uncomfortable. I think I should be able to know and do.

I do hope, in the nicest possible way, that 2018 is an uncomfortable year for you as you set out on your learning journeys in dangerous new worlds.

My best wishes from Tasmania and NSW


Photo Credits

Tasmania and Braidwood (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Extreme sports Slackline with pyrenaline (Fred Marie, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

NASA before Powerpoint 1961 (J. R. Eyerman, via LIFE)


I shared the program preface with a colleague. In our exchange I sought to clarify that I was reading ‘danger’ as ‘adventure’. I was delighted with his response:

… another morning spent in contemplation – thanks Keith. I was thinking about the overlap of danger and adventure. They both share degrees of anticipation. As the risk-ratio varies the consequence changes (from enchanted flair to a feverish rise in temperature). Anyway, with lots of poetic licence applied here’s my concertina for the day:

perception of uncertainty
perched on a ledge
near the
edge of
reasonable doubt
yes … he jumped on that conclusion

© 2018 Tim Grace