The Willow Tree – and the Fight for Life

I like the saying: ‘when you fight you can loose. Not to fight means you have already lost.’

I also remember the principle from jujitsu many years ago, apparently part of its age-long tradition:
‘Be like the willow tree that bends before the storm – and then darts back. Yield in order to win.’

Fighting may sound like: ‘be strong – and hard.’

To me it’s more like this:
‘Persevere – hang in there. And: don’t forget about the breaks!’

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:
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!

Tolerance – or: Accept the Other by Looking Beyond the Image

When we work or live together, everyday life can be made difficult by disagreements, arguments or even serious quarrels, with misunderstandings at the bottom of them, very often.
What can help to solve this all-to-common occurrence? How can we get past petty arguments and self-righteousness to allow for a broader view and deeper understanding?

Listen to Your Peers

This sounds like easy advice but it isn’t. In everyday life, we are busy and these days internet and digital devices are everywhere. With work, family and friends demanding our full attention most of any day, it can get difficult to really listen; pay attention to what is being said, and what a person may even not say, but what is still there.

Identify Guilt and Get It Over With

Why should we identify it – or even assume it’s there?
In most countries and cultures around the globe the expected conduct, behaviour and rules of the community are strict, especially when listened to closely. Some more than others. But this strictness, these rules, between people, between parents and children, between lovers, between husband and wife, between friends – lead to easy and repeatedly felt emotions of guilt in the sense: “I did not follow the rule. I behaved or acted inadequately. Or seem to have. That is bad.”
After such, often not completely conscious thoughts, the next step in such chains of thought is:
“I have to prove myself. I have to contradict the other person, to make clear that I am good.”
With this the defensiveness sets in, anger enters the conversation, and mutual accusations of what the other person got wrong, will follow.

How can that be got over?

It cannot completely, because we are human beings and we live in this world and have been raised to certain standards and beliefs.
It can be relieved, though.
Because if we are ready to see the whole picture, we may teach ourselves and thus our surroundings, forgiveness.
Based on the realization, that we all at times have differing needs, even in the same family, not to say across cultures. That this difference of need and emotion can lead to excitement and even anger – and we are still good at heart!
Because, just as much as we are trying to do our best and occasionally fail – so do the others.

Look Beyond the Image

What image? And why look beyond one?
Culture, education, upbringing and history of our respective countries shape our idea of the world, of what is acceptable behaviour, what is not.
Women and men are usually supposed and expected to act or behave or talk in a certain manner. If that manner is markedly different from our expectations, we start wondering, why and how – and very often jump to conclusions based on what we learned so far.
That is the image: what we have learned, what we expect, and what these presuppositions actually let us see – or miss.

So, in this sense, looking beyond the image means: realize what the values are that you learned, which of them you actually live by – and what could be different, in the other person.

Accept the ‘Other’ as such – different, not better, not worse, just different, in most cases. And, sometimes the most difficult task of all: accept yourself!


With this comes tolerance:
A wonderful word, to my mind, it encompasses the concept of allowing for variety – of being open-minded, and accepting that not everyone is the same as we are, at least in detail, and that this fact is – and thus the other person is – welcome.

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn Revisited – The Modern Craze for Calm Kids

children playing

In the times I grew up in (I was a kid in the seventies in Europe) there was a distinct trend for raising children differently: the recently weathered storm of Nazism and fundamentalism together with the most atrocious crimes against mankind called forth a very determined frame of mind to never let it happen again. The root causes were being analysed in earnest shortly after WW II across the globe and especially in Germany starting with the late fifties, when a new generation claimed the silence of their parents to be broken.

The reasons for such atrociousness as the Third-Reich of the Nazis and their followers caused have been defined since then: the servant’s, even devotee’s frame of mind people had been raised in in many parts of Europe that basically stated authority should be listened to and followed at all times at all costs, together with a long history of Anti-Semitism.

The new young generation in the sixties and seventies, among others picking up Alexander S. Neill’s ideas set forth in his school in England, Summerhill, in turn created the idea of a children’s education which is free of adult authority.
His ideas since have found a world-wide reception and response. Many sources cite him as the most influential educationalist of the 20th century.

I won’t recite or summarize his work, but I am worried and even feel repulsed by a (not-so)-new counter tendency that can be found throughout recent movies, documentaries and articles: to basically diagnose every second or third child with the so-called ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and then – recommend or even prescribe medication to quieten them!
A recent review of a not very important little comedy movie featuring primary-school children in prominent roles even went so far as to recommend such treatment for one of the main characters – an about seven year-old boy who obviously was a little too young to not play around an office!

The reasons for this tendency seem clear to me and are really frightening to me, as they seem to point into the same direction as the ideas that had been prevailing at least since the nineteenth century: let children be quiet and calm at all times so parents are not disturbed too much and also would not have to attend to them too much…

In other cultures than the Western children and their special needs and care for them are viewed differently. One would not easily find a parent in the Middle East asking a small child to always be quiet – or even medicate them.

There are certainly cases of children who need more than the average attention, but why? Because someone (the parents or family or teachers) didn’t do their ‘job’ properly!

Children and adults alike need attention, in the case of grown-ups it’s called appreciation and ‘suddenly’ is a good thing. So, parents that are unable for reasons most likely based in their own childhood to pay attention to their own children, will probably raise children suffering from that kind of attention deficit, where the term actually says it (almost) all!

Apart from a proper loving attention and care that includes drawing the line now and again, children should be able to draw attention to themselves and they also should be allowed to play and develop slowly into grown-ups, as nature intended.
No adult can always stay calm without medication, not to say drugs. A child that is ‘drugged’ into calmness at an early age will most likely become a drug-abusing adult instead of a healthy and occasionally loud human being!

So, parents, theorists and teachers, think again: would you want to have Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn around today – and what medication would they have to take….?