Pluralism – Tolerance – Life or: Why It is Difficult at Times to Accept the Other

For quite some time now, research about peace and how to keep it has been going on, at least since WW II, one of the most dreadful catastrophes mankind has seen.

Among the most important aspects are these two, which actually are two sides of a coin:
pluralism and tolerance.
They seem easy in theory, but everyday practice shows they are not. Why?

Because it is human to be afraid or at least intimidated by what is different from ourselves. To judge – and more importantly – feel judged by the ‘other’. The concept, idea, shape or, simply, behaviour that is different from what we are used to.

In ancient times so research seems to confirm, this point of view was a lifesaver: trust only what is the same, difference can be dangerous. Apparently animals still act that way: any smell, colour and shape different from their own seems a danger.

Yet, there are details that can make all the difference: animals that are smaller, insignificant, or have a smell that is considered neutral, may be ignored altogether.

This points to something that makes the whole idea even more poignant:
The other is only made an issue of, if it is not just different – but when it appears to be dangerous!

Unfortunately, this is true for human behaviour too:
Most of the times human beings start fighting, on smaller or larger scales, they do so because they feel endangered.

Xenophobia is the ancient Greek term for the behaviour that is at the root of these situations: the fear of the stranger, the other, the dangerous one.

Peaceful coexistence, if aimed at, needs these few ideas:

  • Remember that with self-esteem and the realization of being human and thus imperfect comes more security by feeling adequate.
  • Start getting to know yourself better to help self-esteem along.
  • Stop thinking that feeling insecure or inadequate is something bad – or very singular. It’s human to feel afraid sometimes, to feel inadequate or insecure. Deal with it.
  • Do not try to feel more secure by making others smaller, in deed, or in words.
  • Most importantly: try to cross the boundaries, get to know the ‘other’ on safe grounds – and start relishing what plurality has to give.

This is the high road to peace – and more respect, for yourself and for others.

One of Those Questions – Love in Triples?

It seems that in long-term relationships for all kinds of reasons people can forget about passion and how it might work…
Sometimes it’s not so much the ‘forgetfulness’, but reasons outside of their strictly personal ideas have made them come together, especially: marry.

For thousands of years mankind has been wondering and does every day, if passion must not fade, naturally, after some time.
I am not sure if I am the right person to answer this definitively, but in my opinion: ‘no’.
I am a romantic and I believe that with patience and knowledge and the right setting more things are possible, than “are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio”, as Shakespeare has Hamlet say in the famous play.

A lot of people seem to feel that the solution lies in the triple: have the long-term partner to share life with – and the second ‘love’ to share passion with. Little vignettes may swim to imagination’s surface, painting the life that way in rosy, passionate and separate colours…
Interestingly, almost no one takes the time to think this through… Man (and woman) is not a machine, a function, but always a unique being, a whole of mind, soul and body.

So, shortly put: triples do not work in love.

Be that as it may, this little clip from one of my favourite movies gives a nice answer to that question, that is not definitive, on the surface – but makes you wonder in a good way…

Age, Business, Numbers, Money – and the Age Myth

How do we love? By numbers: the best, the highest, the most… something – or another.
How do we judge? By the average, the mainstream, the numbers, again: if the majority agrees it must be right.
Right? Wrong.
The majority is sure that after a certain age people do not find jobs easily because their age makes them less fit for it – the biggest myth: it’s again the numbers, the numbers of profit creating opinion, nothing else.

Majority. Hm.
In ancient Rome the majority agreed that having gladiator fights, and fights between predatory animals and humans in an arena were good.
In ancient Rome the majority agreed that Christians were ‘of the devil’ and should not only die – but be tortured in the arena, for the majority’s amusement.

These days, we agree that this is inhuman and against the laws of nature.

But still, we seem to think in numbers:
the highest, the most, the majority.
Right?
Wrong.

Business in these days is at the bottom of such ideas. What is most profitable, is the most agreeable. But not just profitable for someone – or many.
But profitable for those that have the most money, and want more.

Who determine the profit by paying less and less wages, by making ‘global’ pressure responsible for less and less human conditions.

I am lucky, in the middle of Europe. I not only have a job, but I am paid according to very humane laws and ideas.
I like my work – and I am also lucky in other ways, pertaining to my surroundings.

But the ideas that go around about age being a problem in workplaces – and that people after a certain age are less likely to find new jobs due to their age, create this strange myth about age being the underlying problem, as in, unfitness.

In actual fact, the problem is altogether different: age makes people experienced, and, even more importantly, they are not as easily fooled into tasks and ideas they know about more with – age.
They have acquired more and more skills over the years and thus they might cost more wages – which is against the law of profit.

So, actually, the numbers, business and the law of profit determine ideas of the majority.

As someone also called it aptly a few years ago:
“It’s not public opinion – it’s published opinion.”

And even if people are repeating it over and over again, have for decades now, that makes it not any more true.
Age is not the problem, numbers are.

Religious Books, Truth, Knowledge – and the Fellow Being!

Religious books these days are taken as basis to judge people. As if people following Islamic traditions were equal to what is found in the Koran.
As if every Christian you can meet would be exactly the way the bible states.

A more stupid approach cannot be imagined: people who study religion for a living, who are either university fellows or academics in the field of one religion or even religions as a subject, will tell you how contradictory the bible can be in only ‘one book’.
Take the old and the new testament and place them side by side and find out what values are purported there:
you will be amazed.

Compare Versions and Ages

Take the Koran and study its Suras and find out how many of them are really applicable to modern life.
How much of it was dependent on living conditions and then recent changes ~1400 years ago!

There have been researchers who found that society before it was not only matriarchal – which basically means, women were considered to be the most important members of society and the ones who were free to choose their ‘mate’ when and how they thought fit.
It is said they would suspend a little bouquet of herbs in a certain place at their house’s front door to indicate to the current partner that he was free to leave because they had found someone else.

These researches are still in dispute among the traditional scientists of these fields. Some people would perhaps refute them just because they cannot bear the idea that things could have been so much more in favour of women.

Be that as it may: matriarchy and matrilinear societies and religions exist to this day. Matriarchy as the earliest form of society has been established!

To this day, in Jewish religion, the religious membership of a newborn is determined by the membership of the mother: is the mother a Jew, the newborn will be too.

Findings

What I am driving at with all this:
Religious books or scrolls are just that: books, with a partly very long established tradition of reading and interpreting them in the respective religious body.
Historians and social scientists were among the first who dared looking for the truth behind it.

And if you do only for a few minutes around Europe with the bible, as I suggested above, and afterwards go into the ‘streets’ of your home town and try and find people that are like that… I’ll hand it to you!

So, stop comparing the Koran with people living in the Islamic tradition. And stop trying to make out that the bible was always the only truthful basis for the human rights act – in other words:
know them by their deeds!

Remember Cuba? Remember the Nazis? Iran, the US, War, Pride – Make Peace!

The cold war is behind us, so it seems, which was a stage laid out for two ‘super-powers’ in finance as well as weapons.
What is now going on is the same song and dance as it was and has been before, not only for the decades since WW II – but for time almost immemorial: finance and thus money and more money, deals, power over resources and thus wealth – and also: pride.

I have posted here already that in my opinion wounded pride has caused more rifts, arguments and wars than anything else in this world.

When the Nazi dictator was still a young man in his twenties, he tried to be admitted to the academy of arts in Munich, Germany, to become an artist – and study painting. They refused him.
So, he joined the ‘party’ and one might say that most of the rest of his life was dedicated to make up for the ultimate private humiliation by becoming famous some other way – and prove to the world…

In history, we may find things repeat themselves, true to Job’s age old adage in the bible, that ‘there was nothing new under the sun’.

Well, yes, technology has progressed. We, basically, can prove now there’s no ‘man in the moon’.
But otherwise, as Erich Kästner has it in one of his poems, too: ‘Einst haben die Kerls in den Bäumen gehockt…’ which translates into:
‘in ancient times they sat in trees….’ – ‘they still are the same’, only the surroundings are different.
At Kästner’s time, mail was sent via tubes in large cities between offices – these days it’s email.

But if someone’s pride is hurt he or she may react in all kinds of (predictable) ways. President Trump may be one of the candidates.
Although he is in fact part of the small group of extremely rich, who may even want more, then they could ever need, just to prove to their family, parents, the world, themselves that they are worth at least as much money in their accounts…

Ultimately, payback may well be at the root of the most striking actions he as president of the US has set in motion.
If you follow his biography more closely, it seems that his mind was made up to run for president when he had been publicly (felt) humiliated by the then holder of the office.

But whatever the cause, whatever the effect – is it really worth it, to endanger millions of innocent lives – for a payback?
Just revoking all the good that has been done – just so it’s being revoked?
Is not that what is done in sandbox games?
‘If you kick my castle, I will kick yours.’

Dignity can be important – but our own individual reactions always determine what manner and amount of dignity we retain.

At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in the fall of 1962, negotiations were upheld to the culminating point, to the last possible moment, in order to prevent war.

And that should now be moot? Not true? Another ‘disgruntled’ person feeling small and blowing himself up in the face of the world, when anyone smart enough sees through that at a glance?

Why not do the really magnanimous thing? Retain dignity?
Refrain from payback!

Because the bible has that too, in so many words, quoted from memory:
‘and God speaks: what you have done to the least of my (millions of) brothers, you have done to me.’

Trump, War, Weapons … Money

Although one might not think it right away: Trump all through his presidency has acted true to character. Driven by the need to make more and more money and prove himself to be the tough guy who will not – apparently – consider anyone else’s ideas or pleasure:

He really is the greedy creature he’s always been. A few corrections in his behaviour when cameras are around; some travels around the globe so he can create the image of the diplomatic and reliable person he should have been from day one, as an added ‘polish to the image’ – they cannot fool anyone who’s followed his ‘career’ just a little more closely:

With him and his ‘train’, who are rather the puppet masters in the background, it is not about anything, but gaining money, by hook or by crook, if necessary, by both.
A shame actually to think that such a pitiful excuse for a man who often is downright ridiculous, should get so much attention. But of course, with people such as him, that is the second weakness: the craving for attention. Any kind.

I still wonder how it was possible that North Korea so comparatively easily changed tune in such a short time… what funds were transferred from where to whom…

I hope and even pray that Iran for all it’s worth will keep it’s diplomatic cool and not be drawn into any of the antics Trump so far has used with other countries and which amount to what is again common in global politics:
bribery and extortion.

Hoping that Iran in politics will one day turn out to be a country where something like the Declaration and International Bill of Human Rights will be political principal inside as well as out, in accordance as well with age old traditions; I still do not believe for a moment in the rights the US have claimed at least since WWII around the world: do anything they can, literally any thing, to keep or expand their power over natural resources in any shape or form.

Do not let them fool you! Media, the best especially, are crucial for knowing about what is being said in front of cameras. But to know people and politics, look for the underlying principle and beware. Behind the cameras, a lot goes on that sometimes is only found out decades or even centuries later.

Know them by their deeds. Resist war and manipulation with all peaceful, nonviolent might.
Make peace, not war!

Stephen Fry: “Playing Grafcefully With Ideas” – Oscar Wilde, Albert Einstein or Modern Heroes

I like to share this address here, Stephen Fry’s address to Oxford students on what to value very highly in life, especially as student or – I like to add, human being:
freedom of thought

Fry’s speeches and subtle humour are famous already, as actor as well as writer he can be said to practice the true art of understatement.

I will just put this here, it’s great fun and well-versed as well as read. Take a little time off your household chores, perhaps, get a breather from a working life of pressing tasks – and enjoy!

The Art of Making Mistakes and yet Thrive: Try Again!

There’s no shame in failure, only in not trying again. (Henry Ford)

Many quotes similar to this have been attributed to Henry Ford. The image of the proverbial entrepreneur is associated with him.

Regardless of this being really his own words – I have found them to be quite true in the course of my life.

In a number of cultures, the strict rules we grow up with as children can create the impression that making mistakes can lead to serious consequences. During education the consequences of a mistake or an error are often painted in very dark and sinister colours. This method often is used to make children and adolescents better understand that consequences should be taken into account before acting.

The concept of Yin and Yang is often used to describe the fact that nothing and no human being is just one thing – or another.
Black – or white. But both, more often than not.
In some ways this is true.
The Chinese concept itself is a little more complex.

In order to find out what concept helps understanding life and human beings as well as situations wholly and thus truthfully, and so make our ideas reliable, the Yin-Yang-concept is not sufficient.

To make it clearer and yet easy to understand, I like to use the image of the kaleidoscope: most situations, people and even mistakes are not one- or two-sided, but rather multi-faceted, that is:
colourful!
Therefore, to be afraid of a mistake can also be the result of not looking at the whole picture. Of all the pros and cons a situation, a person or especially a mistake can have.

Basically, as the quote above also shows, not trying again is the real shame. And not seeing what is true, but jumping to conclusions.
I’ve posted about this in another context before.

If we slip on a banana peel, fall and get hurt, we pick ourselves up. We attend to the scratches – and we may notice in the event that the slip has prevented us from running across the street, without watching out for the van that might have killed us.

That is a simple example of what I mean:
Get up, try again – and see if there aren’t upsides after all!

I Cannot Be Bothered with Museums – or: Being Is so Light – or: Why Education?

I am part of a family that for hundreds of years has been busy to educate and learn and further culture, arts and knowledge, basically across half of Europe.
When I was still a girl, I often felt overwhelmed and intimidated by all the possible knowledge domains that are there these days, all the facts, figures and rules of art one would learn, languages and their often hidden meaning. Mathematics, physics, chemistry, in short: all the subjects of the higher holistic academic education, based on humanist principles, in turn based on Wilhelm von Humboldt’s Humboldtian education ideal of the nineteenth century.

I often asked myself: will I ever be able to learn and understand all these facts? Apart from the possible interpretations and philosophical consequential thoughts one might develop. My parents used to discuss philosophical matters, such as epistemology, the limitations of knowledge, as opposed to wisdom, terminology questions, or language, society and its roots, politics, arts, sciences, literature…

I’ve learned in the meantime that for all the high ideals and aspirations, growing up does for us what we need: knowledge becomes ‘manageable’, categories form in the mind and thus build a solid structure, slowly but surely, if we continue.

I also learned early in life about Socrates and his (alleged) dictum:
“I know that I know nothing.” Although proper research does not find this to be part of the Plato texts, it is widely acknowledged as a short gesture of respect towards previous philosophers and scientists, in the sense that a wealth of knowledge exists and one human being would not be enough to imbibe it all.

Some people have answered the question ‘why study’ in a more generic way:
‘Being educated is a worthy and dignified asset and a proper value of distinction.’
Some find:
‘It can be crucial for a life in wealth or even riches’ – which is the, alas, modern, utilitarian variety of the reason for education.

But somehow these answers weren’t enough for me. They seemed to reduce knowledge and wisdom to something ‘countable’.
For myself I have found a basis for education that is rooted in a belief and experience, especially those blessed with wealthy families and upbringing, may not easily share:

‘Education can make the fundamental difference between the ‘unbearable lightness of being’ – and the ‘unbearable heaviness of being’.’

Why? How?

Lightness of being may be felt by those, who live in comfortable circumstances, who do not know, what real want or need of the fundamental necessities in life feels like. And who may even be tempted to idle away their lives in constant partying and drinking and perhaps even drug abuse, or worse, in order to quench any emotion or thought of emptiness or lack of focus this way. (This kind of behaviour may be a phase only, when people think they have to prove their membership of the ‘wealthy elements’ of society, prove to be bold and exciting…)

Heaviness of being can be felt by those, who have seen – or see – this want, this need. Who have to reduce their living circumstances for years or even decades to the bare living and breathing and clothing and food.

For some time I was part of the second aspect of people. One day, after years and years, one might say, I had the chance to ‘return’ to the museums of my childhood, to the paintings, the knowledge of scientists and meaning.

I entered that hall of paintings, in my case the Flemish and Netherlands artists of the 14th to 16th century, mainly.
And suddenly I was moved almost to tears, feeling:
“Thank God, this is all here, still, and will be, whatever else may happen.”

It was like a revelation at that moment, of art lifting me up above the worries and fears of everyday life. I remembered a number of things I had learned during childhood about the rules for why these paintings were just this way. That made the experience even more insightful and exciting.

So, my answer(s) to the question above, why education, are these:
It can lift you up.
It broadens the horizon of understanding, that is understanding humans, ways of life, religions and politics.
It can make you feel as if a light, like a beacon, shines on our lives, because all those wonderful artists have created art to make life more colourful, multi-faceted and exciting.

So, be undaunted, now or later, and conquer the knowledge, the wisdom and the arts – to light up your life with the knowledge and arts – your way.

Greed, Poverty and War – or: How to Be Truly Noble Again

Trump: lies, selfishness and rudeness as well as greed rolled into one, combined with a high sense of self-representation in a world where more money superficially makes the person more ‘priceless’.

The golden calf… although originally the first settlers of the US fled from Europe to avoid that – they created it again: the first manifestation of human society: every man fights on his own, wealth and power being the only yardstick for distinction.

This is in a way a wonderful example of political and historical repetition: as Job had it in his famous biblical monologue: nothing is new under the sun – or words to that effect. Because here we see, what the ‘Adel’, the aristocracy of former centuries in Europe, too often was made of.
The same principle applies, again: cruelty, the greed for wealth above all others, being looked up to – and reign, in order to feel even more distinguished and – appreciated.

The German word for aristocracy, ‘Adel’ makes it clear nicely: in those times, someone who distinguished himself – usually in warfare – was made ‘special’: ‘edel’, which is the modern form of the word ‘Adel’ which translates into ‘noble’.

Yet, all this is good for nothing if we don’t learn from it: in our history books we look with disgust on those that distinguished themselves as rulers by cruelty and selfishness, by greed and the general poverty and starvation of the people they ruled.
But today’s similar leaders are cheered at?

Let’s learn that to live greed will create more greed.
That to live cruelty creates more cruelty.
That war will cause more war.
That inequality will cause more inequality.

Live love and you will create love.
Live equality and you will create equality.
Live peace and you will create peace.

As an African saying has it: if lots of small people in lots of small places do lots of small things – they will change the face of the earth.

Live all these – and be shrewd too, as the bible, another wealthy source of wisdom if you know how to use it, also has it: be like the snakes and the doves.
Which is to say, live all these noble ideas, but don’t let others fool you.
Learn, educate and – know them – by their deeds.