Fashion or Favourite – The Blindness of Prejudice

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Fashion can be truly deadly in a sense: When it becomes a cast, an iron mold to surround us like a cage. It can enclose the mind. It can enclose the body, because certain expectations as regards clothing, movements and even personal behaviour lead us to shun personal character. Like a cage – making all the same…

I’ve posted similarly before. The subject presents itself over and over again. These days it seems to be even more pronounced when the life of such a formidable figure as the late Queen Elizabeth II of England is being reviewed.

She was a queen of the first water: Although not originally ‘born to be queen’, since the abdication of her uncle only made her own father king in the 1930s when she was eleven, she was raised to a high sense of duty and faithfulness to her country and the idea of monarchy as such. From my point of view I would call it the sense of providing guidance and present an example.

Being an example and that in the eyes of the public to boot, is awe-inspiring, at least. It can also be challenging or even prove frightful. To be watched all your life by often rather critical, not to say strict eyes, is no child’s play.

Yes, she is among the richest people in the world and the richest in England, if I remember correctly. But try imagining to be under ‘observation’ morning, noon and night, every day of your life – and have any false step commented on or even ridiculed: Many have been known to flee from that kind of duty, before. She delivered it with amazing self-control and apparent ease all her long life.

Yet, it seems to me that fashion these days works very similarly in everybody’s life, in these ‘modern’ digital times: More than in previous decades?

The fashion that women and men should behave just as so many actors in modern TV-series: be clothed that way, behave that way, cool, calm and always ‘true to form’: To me that is a pity; anyone who deviates from that ‘form’, that ‘mold’, the iron cast of fashion, will be subject to numerous misconstructions and misrepresentations – just because ‘fashion’ demands otherwise.

I plea the cause of diversity in every sense: Let’s not judge prematurely just because now and again people do actually not fit – and are different – or just show personal character.

Cruel Attack on Salman Rushdie – Award-winning Writer

Image showing Salman Rushdie discussing with mic in hand
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After all this time someone managed to hit, cruelly: Salman Rushdie, wonderful poet and writer of award-winning books was attacked on Friday with a knife and hit 10 times. At the moment of this writing he seems to  be out of danger. I hope he will recover and heal mind and body to come out even stronger than before.

The darker side of any religion sometimes is revealed in such acts: Manipulated simple-minded people who actually believe that freedom of press, opinion and religious following could be considered a sin, exist. They existed in ancient history when Muslims and Christians killed each other in the ‘Holy Land’ apparently over who would own it.
When it really was about power in that region and trade ways as well as roads.

In ancient times and these days: Any religion can be abused to manipulate people into cruel deeds, into following someone for the sake of simple solutions in words, in order to feel special, in a dangerous, deceptive safety of woolly-headed idolatry.

The only way out of what Plato described in the cave allegory: People sitting in a cave, with the entrance behind them, a slight elevation and a light on it between, watching the cave walls. Life and its figures passing by the entrance outside, to such humans appear like flickering shadows on that back wall.

To leave that cave of misinterpretation and age-old manipulation means: Train your mind.

Learn about thoughts and ideas. Understand that humans need to respect each other in order to be able to live in a world of peace and joy. To be able to even let their dreams come true which might be just – to live and let live in peace of mind.

To watch over human rights as declared in the Human Rights Declaration of the United Nations – is without alternative!

Pick Your Battles or: Live to Fight Another Day

image of a young lady sitting on a mountain top
I have posted about wars. This is about the smaller ones in everyday life. We can make an issue out of every little thing. Sometimes, people will misunderstand it if we don’t. I had to fight a lot in the course of my life. I learned one thing for sure: Many things can become big, even huge in the eyes of the world – or our own – if we make them that. Fighting is proven to ‘take it out of you’: You can become angry, even furious once you have chosen the issue. You start an argument, perhaps. Things even may escalate into a full-blown conflict that rages for years.

And for what, really? So often we will come to realize that a lot of things are not worth the energy, because:
Fighting saps one’s strength. I am not talking about becoming angry – and letting off steam. That’s important in a healthy way and done safely in order to not hurt others. But fighting?

Fighting takes it out of you, the effects can become really dangerous to our system. Because, the way we deal with anger or even frustration is something we can learn – and manage. So much in life depends on how we look at it. Strong emotions are part of our mindset – that is also: part of how we evaluate what happens to us. The first flush of anger may be involuntary – but after that, it’s a choice. To save health and nerves and keep frustration at bay.

Because, also, so often looking back, we may regret unnecessary fights, especially with people we like or love.

That’s why I make it a point in my life – and a plea here for all who are wondering: Pick your battles. The next one may be really worth it.

Stressing the Good Points – Look for Solutions

Life is full of difficulties. Often pain. Stories and fairy tales exist all around the world to confirm this, some religions incorporate the idea into the body of their texts, the bible just as well as Buddhism know about it.

These days in many parts of the world – perhaps also led astray, you might say, by modern movies and advertisements claiming the contrary – people believe that being always divinely happy and fine is a matter of reaching a goal of wealth and ultimate acceptance. Fast. And stay with it.

It is different altogether: Erich Kästner, famous German poet of the 20th century, put it like this:

“Es gibt nichts Gutes außer man tut es.” (There is no good except for what you do.)

I wondered in the course of my life what he could mean. There is nothing good in the world…except for what we do?
One day I realized:

Kästner means the idea of ‘goodness’, of ‘good’ vs ‘bad’, is human.
Doing the good things makes them become real.

I felt a lot like that during my life, which has been full of experience. I’ve seen sadness, impaired health, death and – health restored. People on the flight from war and political oppression.

Buddhism has another way of putting it, put in my own words here:

Life is full of pain. We are asked to reduce it, here and now, wherever we are at a given time. If ever possible.
That’s how it becomes bearable, again.

In everyday life this can mean that we look at what is fine – and let people know about it.
Whining as opposed to crying or weeping, I’d like to stress here as well: Emotions need to be released too, be that anger, sadness or frustration.
After that:
If things are not working out yet, do not make a lot of fuss and whine – but find solutions – and start ‘doing’.

Knowledge – Wisdom – Marketing – Stereotypes – What Reading and Thinking Can Do for You

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Erich Fromm, Alexander Lowen, Sigmund Freud, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Victor Hugo, Alxandre Dumas, Charles Dickens, The Brontë Sisters, Shakespeare, Plato, Immanuel Kant, Aristotle,…the list goes on and on and on…. And those are only a very major few dealing with live, love, sex, gambling, man vs mankind, culture, thoughts, ideas in human life, right, wrong, and human needs. I’ve read so many books in the course of my life that I can truly say they cover a mid-sized library. A couple of thousands.

Opposed to that are the images you find in many Hollywood movies (often especially the ones drawing huge audiences), on Social Media – strange word for such a rather ‘un-social’ market place – but then, ever since the Ancient times it was common calling bad or problematic things by good names – to lessen the fear or dread of it, such as the Black Sea known to be dangerous to sailors. They called it “Pontos Euxeinos” in Greek, the friendly, kind sea.

Market places: Marketing images are everywhere – and they ‘feed’ on stereotypes.
Reading and thinking on your feet, you might say, trains the mind; trains your thinking, to go beyond common images, and be – at some point – a complete and wholesome human being rather than someone chasing the latest fashions in order to be fashionable – and be ‘IN’.

The monster, the lady in distress, the prince and the common man to rescue her so they can fall in love with her afterwards…
C.G. Jung, a Freud-disciple, called them ‘archetypes’ that have been around for many centuries in human existence, in the West at least, and patriarchal society, and thus are part of all our common (usually unconscious) heritage of ideas and wishes.

Most important in this respect to me are these ideas:

Knowing about something does not mean you had to do it first in order to  understand.

Wisdom is not the same thing as knowledge. Wisdom is the combination of empathy (know human emotions) with experience and knowledge to truly understand human life.

The Most Important Idea to Remember…

image of a single red rose bloom on a heap of pebbles
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8 Love has no fear; it does not worry; love keeps no records of wrongs; never fails.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

(1 Corinthians, 13; translation: New King James Version, 1982)

The bible is called that because the term ‘biblos’ in Greek means book; to many it is the book of books.

I think it is full of wisdom, if you know how to read it. The focus on the New Testament, the Evangelists, neighbourly love at its center.

Other religions are wise too, equally if you know how to read and understand them. To me the most important value we can use to measure that kind of quality is respect for life, human – and otherwise, animals, plants, the Earth.

Again:

8 Love has no fear; it does not worry; love keeps no records of wrongs; never fails.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Less is More – Western vs Eastern Concepts of ‘Action’? – The Cards of the Game…

Image of falling cards suspendedin mid-air
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The loud and ‘active’ are equated; the fast runner and the quick result of a ‘win’ are equated; the ‘meet and talk about it’ and reaching results are equated. Why – and since when?
Hold up something that looks like a real brick of a thing – when it’s actually ‘just’ a card in a card game, nice and solid viewed from the front, but thin and without any substance viewed from the sides.

In business especially since WWII and the advent of the ‘new economy’ some ideas have been churned around for decades now, which amount to this:
Prove your work, your results and your professionalism by making lots of nice noise, present and talk about what you do. Run around a lot, talk to people a lot. That way, everybody will be impressed by your ‘busy bee’ image of the worker bee…

Yet, when all is said and done, what is work – or business, for that matter – about? About reaching results. Creating them, changing them, ultimately selling things, and earn your salary – and the revenue.

The ‘cards of the game’ can be that: A lot of noise, not to say hot air – but when you look closely, from a different angle, it’s a rather thin substance…

Do not underestimate those who have their goals and priorities straight and focused and will reach them with the least amount of ‘noise’ and the maximum amount of output. Not all who are calm – or quiet – are ‘passive’…Not all who are loud are really active…

 

Tolerance – The Basis for Pluralism and Diversity

“Tolerance – The ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with.”

I have posted similarly about this before.

Tolerance sounds nice and easy and important and altogether a desirable behaviour or mindset.
It is not easy, at all.
It is important and desirable.

Tolerance, as the definition in the Oxford Dictionary so nicely makes clear means to endure something one does not  agree with – or dislikes even. As human beings many, I’d say, more than 50% of most of the population of any region in this world, are raised to certain ideals and rules that they are expected to fulfill or conform with, often no matter what.

The sad and scientifically proven fact is that many people often become sick in mind and body just because of that. The patriarchal society in particular, for example, expects men to be always on the alert, always superior, always cool, calm and collected although that is neither human nor really ‘manly’.

In consequence much more men than women suffer from alcoholism, are addicted to smoking – or worse.

Human history alas is also full of results of the lack of tolerance and the reasons for it.

It seems that many human beings are easily scared by phenomena or appearances that  seem strange or unusual. The idea being that strangeness might mean danger – or at least a more or less subtle way to call ones own being into question.

The sometimes dreadful results of that kind of mindset are wars, pogroms and mass massacres of groups or peoples or tribes that seem to threaten the established order or ideals.

This can happen in everyday life too. When many people are convinced a  certain way of life is the only healthy way – and someone else deviates from that.

I make the plea here, once again, as always: Let’s tolerate anything that is inside the range of the Human Rights Declaration – and create more peace on this earth – every day.

War, Power, Power Plays – Power Balance – The Cruelty of Politics

game of chess with fire in background
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Politics is about tactics too, the official definition in the Oxford dictionary states, as one meaning:
The activities of governments concerning the political relations between states.
Politics can be wise and be based on sound values – or they are cruel and serve a few with no values at all, except their bank account(s).

Others use politics as a means to heal wounds of vanity, retrieved some time during their lifetime. Like, dreadful example, though one of many, really, Adolf Hitler, ‘Reichskanzler’ (Chancellor of the 3rd Reich) during the Nazi dictatorship in Germany.

Famously applied at the Vienna Academy of Arts and rejected he spent the rest of his life redeeming a fragile self-confidence or rather image.

To this day dictators often are about this more than anything else: Many take the wealth in the wake of power as a means to an end – and bathe in any kind of public recognition and the approval of one part (usually the rich and extremely rich) of the respective society.

These patterns are recurring, and usually do so cruelly – as per latest example, in regard to Putin in his way to power – and the Ukraine.

The Ukraine is part of the power plays between nations and actually the former Soviet Union and its remnants – as well as a personality the likes of Putin who took over this vast country of Russia bit by bit in more than two decades.

His own motives may be hidden in biographical privacy yet – but they seem rather apparent when watching recordings of his public and private appearances: Extreme understatement standing out as the apparently simple guy, the almost nice, familiar neighbour who wears his business suit anywhere, even in parades among numerous highly decorated militia…

Yet, when seen driving big motor-cars and enjoying the fact that he is a ‘force to be reckoned with’, the purported modesty and neighbourly demeanour are revealed as so much window dressing.

In the long run educating people to the values that have proven to be vital to any civil, democratic society, namely the Human Rights Declaration, are the only real weapon we have against such populism and cruel repression.

In the short run, being aware of the balance of power and respect it early on might be the safe route around war.

“Anna Karenina” – The Looks – and the Great Divide

19th century drawing of Winter palace St. Petersburg
19th century drawing of the ballroom in the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg – License: public domain

Beauty, wealth, a comfortable life and an adorable son: Yet, Anna Karenina still is one of the most tragic figures in literature. In popular movies the unhappy love story is always very much stressed. The actual underlying wonderfully rendered idea of what society and its expectations can do to individuals that stand out, is one of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpieces.

If you never had the opportunity – or never felt much like reading, try one of these two ways:
Just try and read the actual book.
Look around for a fine reading of it as audiobook recording.

Leo Tolstoy makes it a ‘movie theatre in the mind’: Vivid images of the people involved, the locations they visit, the talks and exchanges make it come to life much more vibrant than any movie ever could.

Most important to me is Tolstoy’s realization of an almost cruel truth: The expectations of a patriarchal society that quickly condemns anyone who does not conform to the ideas of what a lady is supposed to be like.

And the bitter truth that holds true to this day: The wife to be nice and quiet and even a little limited, preferably. The other woman, fascinating by charms and esprit who is being desired, craved even but put at a distance that is remote adoration, at best.

Tolstoy with his usual cutting-edge powers of observation also diagnoses the underlying ‘disease’:
Men who expect a plaything, a toy and presume the position of power, even cruelly to do as they please – because the ‘guys’ never mind or even applaud.

In modern times where at least on the surface the equality of the sexes has been achieved in some parts of this world, one would expect this to be a behaviour of the past.

But some more conservative surroundings bring it up again: The ghost of women passed – and past – who suffered from male expectations – and delusions. Or the bitter payback of ‘frustration’.