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The Daily Paradox


In the heyday of the railways in the early 20th Century they learnt that the bulk of their business – and the most profitable – was freight. They were soon overwhelmed by it. This presented problems of decoupling, sorting, moving and re-hitching that required massive steam engine resources unless they could find some other flexible energy unit. They did so – it was gravity. And so the railway marshalling yards came into being. They still exist.

The fears being spread so widely today reflect the overload on distressed people living on an equally distressed planet. The ugly brutality of war, the deprivation for so many of basic human needs, the absence of kindness in media which enable sharing joy but are used for jarring shock – all these precipitate a deeply held sorrow often expressed by cynicism and hatred. So much is done in the name of God by those who appear to have forgotten that ‘He has no hands, but only our hands’.

The signs range from people literally giving up mentally, physically and desperately to those who immerse themselves in avoiding the basic questions of life and fiddle with the future. Someone told me recently that she could see no purpose in life. Sadly she is not alone. There actually is no purpose in life until you create one. It is not obligatory. Each of us may do as we wish with our lives – but strictly within what enables others to lead theirs as they wish, too. But without a purpose life will seem meaningless. That is the foundation of distress.

It is not surprising that so many people are showing signs, sometimes severe signs, of mental illness. They are being overwhelmed by the concept that nobody is good and everyone is out to steal, damage or destroy. This belief is bad for your body as well as for your mind. What can you do to avoid being overwhelmed?

Manage your horizons. An intelligent and educated lady of mid-years walked out of an interview recently when asked her view of the likely impact of the Ukraine war on world food supplies. She said: “I never read or listen to anything beyond the shores of the country I live in.” She was managing her horizons in a rather too limited way. We all have at least four horizons: Personal Survival, Family Welfare, Employment Security, The Rest of the World. Most people have a few more, these are the basic ones.

You can’t be up to date with information affecting all of these horizons so decide how much you must know about each. They are shown in order of importance for most people. If you are President of the United States or of China, ‘The Rest of the world’ may be a bit more important. Most people understand their personal horizon, though many think it is far more limited than it really is. Don’t obsess about any one of these horizons. In times of sickness you will naturally be more concerned about the first. When a threatening war is declared, the fourth will loom larger. Avoiding being overwhelmed means keeping a balance.

Reprioritise your horizons to follow the news but never let events dictate your own choice of what matters. Those running their lives sensibly marshall their horizons by showing them in relation to time – Urgent Present, Vital Nine Months, Critical Years, Good Life. You will have spotted the matrix created by mixing the horizons with the timescales. Draw it up for yourself  – horizons vertical with Personal Survival at the bottom, times horizontal with Urgent Present at the left. Now see where you have it balanced, where unbalanced. The process of doing this will help you reassess your priorities.

No process by itself solves your problems but setting them out methodically will give you the basis for making your life interesting, meaningful and under control. It will help you think things through – a sure way to deal with oppressive worries.

We suggest that you ‘think a bit more to be a lot happier’.

Good afternoon

John Bittleston

Are you overwhelmed? Do please let us know at [email protected]

6 November 2023