Dr Simon Moss is a renowned author and academic, a fair joke teller and an entertaining speaker; and on two occasions, I have seen him in action.
His playground is the mind, and he covers a range of subjects. He really knows his stuff.
I try to take just one or two ideas from his work each time I dip into it, but something really resonated last week when I saw Simon in action.
His presentation was about the linkage between emotional states and the abilities we exhibit when we are in them. For example, if we are anxious, we will quite often feel the need to conform. The state of anxiety and the need to conform are linked.
Anyway, to rampantly cut through Simon’s careful and measured approach and use it for my own purposes; he suggests that when we combine two states and two feelings we can be effective.
One of the things he suggests is seeking out communities where we can be individual, yet where we can have a sense of belonging. This combines the requisite two states with two feelings, don’t ask me what they were because at that point my own mind zoomed away ... to tea.
The last year or so has been every difficult for me. So much of my identity is tied up in being a good provider, but, like many people, the Global Financial Crisis savaged my ability to earn a crust.
Now I’m not for one minute going to say I had it bad – quite frankly I live in a place where very few people are not ‘rich’ on a world-wide scale. I spend more on a newspaper than a Kenyan tea-worker earns in a day. I eat three meals a day. I drink 8-14 cups of tea. I have a supportive and loving wife and kids, and an extended family.
But we weren’t bringing in what we needed to support our previous mid-level lifestyle, and it was hurting.
I truly believe that a massive factor in keeping me going was my tea community, centred around Twitter, Steepster and Leaf Box tea.
I was working 18 hours a day to try to make a living, but I always found time to talk tea. Incessantly, really. I shot my amateur little videos and presented them to the world. I wrote these articles. Created “Tea-Shirts”. I split another identity off of myself – I’ve always been eccentric, but I could safely turn it up a notch with these guys.
It was funny how you interact with other eccentrics – sometime you try to share their whimsy, sometime they share yours. And the lovely “normal” people that just come along for the ride are fantastic.
And then there’s the people that are so unlike me that I never would have met them any other way. I’ve met people of every race and creed, gender (quite a few more than most people realise), political persuasion, disability, occupation, age and location.
Some conversations are less than 280 characters long.
But some people are now genuine friends, even though I know very little about them, could not pick them out of a police line-up and don’t even know their real names.
I wrote a whimsical piece for Leaf Box Tea while thinking about them, but until I saw Simon’s presentation, I just didn’t know why they were important to me.
(Incidentally, It's great to talk to people of twitter as @The_Devotea , but what I find really wonderful is that it's spilling over into my professional life. People don't invite me to a coffee meeting, they suggest a cup of tea. But I digress...)
Whenever I go for a High Tea somewhere, there is that sense of camaraderie, of doing something outside the norm. I often get talking to others at other tables, even though High Tea is essentially a collection of private events.
How good would it be to take a teapot and wander the streets, randomly sharing a cuppa with folk who are not like me, but to whom a cup of tea with an odd stranger could well engage all that scientific psychostuff that Simon knows about and leave us both feeling refreshed, energised, and ready to handle anything?