Monday, 18 September 2017

Reflections on the nature and resolution of regret

Reflections on the nature and resolution of regret

Regret is a painful reminder of the past that may help guide you in the present.

Regret, guilt and anguish may ultimately be destructive. Regret can become an obsession that colours other (even all) aspects of your life and can prevent you from functioning “normally”. In extreme cases, it can lead to despair and depression, altering your view of life so it is difficult to keep things in proportion or maintain a balanced perspective. Feelings of responsibility and guilt may become overwhelming and prevent you from seeing positive aspects of your character and life.

Regret, however, is not all bad. It suggests intelligence and sensitivity. You may have done, said or felt something you regret, but the very fact you regret it suggests recognition of and a desire to embrace certain values and principles. Mistakes may have been made, but that does not make you worthless, nor does it invalidate positive actions and decisions you have taken in the past and may take in the future. If you feel bad, it is probably because you are good, and you need to recognise that.

To state the obvious, we cannot change the past. If we feel regret, the most we can aspire to is redemption in the form of our future actions. If we learn from our mistakes and channel our feelings of regret into a positive way forward, or learn to see that what we regret may be just one part of a bigger and brighter picture, or even recognise the positive influence our regret may already have had on our conduct, we may appease some of our guilt. Self-forgiveness may not be possible – perhaps we need pain and remorse to help us evolve and to prod us into acts of compassion and understanding, but it may be possible to live with our remorse if we recognise our failures (but also our successes) and set about doing our best in the future.

Stuart Fernie

A poetic comment from Daphne Buckingham:

A lovely offering of peace to the soul. Regret knows its place in the heart. We too often live in such ways that seek to avoid this necessary emotion; therefore we delay our own evolution. That we can feel regret is one of the characteristics that makes us uniquely human. Next, how we respond to it and how we calculate our future actions is key to the responsibility that regret calls up to us. When we take time to listen to the sad music of regret, we allow ourselves the possibility to transcend what is our most humble and ordinary existence. 

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Reflections on "Dunkirk" (2017)

Reflections on “Dunkirk” (2017)
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan,
starring Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy

Watching “Dunkirk” was something of a visceral experience. It felt like more of a participation than a viewing, and I think that was probably Christopher Nolan’s key intention and purpose when planning his film – he wanted his audience to share the experience he is presenting.

Nolan engages the senses of the audience. The movement of the camera and positioning of shots allow us to be involved in the action and to be impressed by sweeping vistas and the sheer scale of the task of evacuation of so many men. Yet he is equally adept at handling intense, confined scenes which allow us to share the immediate experiences of all concerned in the evacuation process. Scenes are built reflecting the fear, hope, safety, loss, destruction, devastation, insecurity, defeat and celebration (survival is the enemy’s failure) of the evacuees and those trying to ensure their evacuation.

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard better use of sound than in this film. It wasn’t just loud, it was sharp, intense, encompassing and heightened the sensations and reactions of the audience so they could virtually feel the sheer power and deadly force of each bullet.

The music (courtesy of Hans Zimmer) became part of the sound experience and enhanced not only the action and the drama, but the very sensations felt by the audience. At one point the steady increase of sound/music and its intensity reflected not just the physical approach of fighter planes and bombers, but an ever more concentrated sense of expectation and imminent danger.

While I understand Nolan’s desire and intentions in showing the same events from different perspectives, emphasising the existential nature of actions and their impact on others (often without realisation), their nonlinear presentation within the ongoing timeline caused some confusion.

Throwing us in at the deep end (having the audience join the action without preamble or explanation) means no meaningful background or exposé of situation or character, so we have no historical overview or perspective (we’re really no further forward in terms of our historical knowledge and understanding by the end of the film), and we have no real opportunity to build emotional ties to any of the characters (beyond sympathy and understanding for their immediate circumstances).

Indeed, this amounts to a certain emotional detachment for virtually all the characters in the film because although we share their awful experiences, there is no construct in the script to allow us to know or care about the characters beyond admiration for their determination and courage, and sympathy for their situation.

The one exception is the young lad on Mark Rylance’s boat who is hurt by the shipwrecked Cillian Murphy. This story within a story seems tagged on and requires greater development – as it is, it just rather tragically fizzles out. These are the only “artificial” scenes in which an emotional situation and response are created and imposed – all other scenes are “natural” and arise from the drama and genuine possibilities of real events which could have applied to any of the evacuees.

So, a worthwhile venture whose strengths in involvement in action and sharing experience bring about a few weaknesses in engagement of emotion and historical context.

My thanks for taking the time to read this page.

Stuart Fernie

Friday, 1 September 2017

Multimedia - a narrowing of horizons?

Multimedia – a narrowing of horizons?

A video presentation of this material is available here.

The internet and modern multimedia offer the gift of global communication and the capacity to share information, knowledge and opinion with virtually everyone on the planet.

These are the most powerful tools for the development and spread of education, culture and thought the world has known, yet in many nations general standards of education are slipping, general knowledge is on the wane and social skills are in decline.

How can it be that these stupendous technological aids have produced seemingly negative effects along with the plethora of positive aspects of their implementation?
I think the answer is choice.

The pre-internet and multimedia generations had few TV channels and experienced relatively rigid programming and timing. Children’s programmes were restricted to certain times and days, as were news, current affairs, light entertainment and religious programmes. This meant that as a young man, I was “forced” to watch programmes that did not necessarily appeal to me, but which (in retrospect) I realise contributed to my general knowledge, personal development and understanding of people, the world and its values. I watched serious current affairs programmes such as “World in Action” or “Panorama” (focusing on political, legal and social issues), light documentary shows such as “Whicker’s World” (investigating many aspects of modern life across the world) and social dramas such as “Sam”, “A Family at War” and “When The Boat Comes In” (all dealing with the fabric of society). I would never have opted to look at such programmes, but there were few alternatives and the thought of turning off the television never entered my head.

A further result of the lack of choice was that watching these programmes became a shared and social experience. Friends, family and colleagues were in the same position and this led to discussion and the sharing of opinion the following day, compounding whatever informative, educational or thought-provoking effect the programme itself might have had.

Compare this to the situation today, where viewers have the choice of a multitude of TV channels, internet sites, YouTube and online gaming. The young can easily opt out of informative and potentially character-developing programming in favour of entertainment, music on tap or endless series inviting their audiences to share personal details of private lives and possibly encouraging admiration of a descent into backstabbing, public bickering and humiliation – all in the name of “entertainment” and the advancement of fame and notoriety.

Why would the young opt in to something demanding and even difficult when something less challenging and more accessible is more readily available and probably better publicised?

At the dawn of the televisual age, and in its early development, opportunities in this new field encompassing entertainment, education and information attracted the most enterprising, talented and skilled candidates in their disciplines. In general, these were people who didn’t just burn with a desire for fame and glory, but who had original ideas, talent and had something to offer or say. They saw this new medium as a means of sharing their views and vision.

It appears that many involved in modern programming are driven less by vision and integrity and more by ego and ambition to succeed in personality-driven television, often taking minimal talent the maximum distance.

Of course, there are still many high-quality programmes and contributions from individuals, but given the exponential increase in channels, programming and the media in general, I think it is probably fair to say standards have been diluted in proportion with the vast increases in demand to fill schedules.

Quite apart from the ailing quality of some programmes and the resultant lack of challenge and thought, the sheer vastness of choice means viewing is now a greatly fragmented experience. In choosing what suits individual mood, character and preference, viewers may have less of a common experience to discuss with friends, family and colleagues. There is less to unite us in one to one conversation, discussion and debate. Indeed, discussion tends to take place online as individuals post comments and opinion aimed at the anonymous masses. Even sharing a reaction has become less sociable.

In terms of communication and research (where possibilities are virtually endless), there is a tendency to restrict oneself to a group of like-minded friends or individuals, potentially bolstering and entrenching belief systems and avoiding challenge and debate. It has become easy to opt out of or avoid topics and ideas that don’t appeal, and this attitude seems to extend even to education where students may be tempted to drop a subject if they encounter a level of difficulty they find uncomfortable. Stamina and determination are to be encouraged, but they are ill-served by the expectation that quick and easily accessible solutions should be available on the internet, and if they aren’t available it’s easier to give up than to work out your own solution.

Increased consultation of the internet seems to have brought about a certain lack of respect for knowledge (both on the part of students and some educators) as it is felt that information can be accessed on the internet, used for a short time, and then jettisoned (and sought again if required later on). This seems to be a rather short-sighted approach, however, for if knowledge is limited or not retained, students will fail to make connections with other facts or information (a process which is the basis of intelligence), and this will reduce both understanding and the capacity to understand, and will thus limit the ability to develop and grow.

Of course, substance and integrity still exist within all this choice, variety and diversity. We simply need to ensure we exercise judgement and control over the choices we make in order to make the most of the extraordinary opportunities afforded us by these technological marvels, but in order to do that, we must first be aware of the potential side-effects of our modern multimedia.

My thanks for taking the time to read this article. I hope you found it of some value.

Stuart Fernie

I can be contacted at