Mark Twain – Adam’s Diary – ‘The Garden without Eve?’ – An Extract….

wooden bridge among pink blossomed trees

Mark Twain, US-American literature’s founder he is called by many: Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are the most famous of his books, Huckleberry Finn indeed being considered the beginning of the ‘American voice’. He was a man of all trades for a long time, Mark Twain, his stage name and pseudonym, being taken from his, Samuel L. Clemens’, favourite trade he learned before turning to ‘newspapering’:

‘Ol Man River’ Mississippi’s ships’ pilots and their calls: The Mississippi is known for many shoals and sandbanks with very low water above them. A pilot on that river would traditionally know these places by heart, interpret every gleam and slight ripple of waves on its surface, and call water depths to the captain when lowering the sounding lead into the treacherous waters:
“Mark Twain” being the call for 2 fathoms (12 feet) of water below the ship’s keel and thus:
Safe going.

This is one of his wonderful quotes I’d like to put here, from Extracts from Adam’s Diary, for all men who doubt it, even at work… The Garden without Eve?

‘Tongue in cheek’ I post it here…

“TEN YEARS LATER.—They are boys; we found it out long ago. It was their coming in that small immature shape that puzzled us; we were not used to it. There are some girls now. Abel is a good boy, but if Cain had stayed a bear it would have improved him. After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her. At first I thought she talked too much; but now I should be sorry to have that voice fall silent and pass out of my life. Blessed be the chestnut that brought us near together and taught me to know the goodness of her heart and the sweetness of her spirit!”

Men, Women, Emancipation – Beyond the Image…

Greek god statues inside temple arcade

Women have been subdued in patriarchal society for generations, even thousands of years. It’s been discussed and now almost common knowledge, and high time too.
But what about the secret life of men?

Aren’t they being used too, in many situations?

Of course, one might argue, as the ‘reigning’ part, not to say sex, they have all the ‘fun’: they are considered superior, always prepared, always the last to leave a sinking ship, saving everybody else first…They make the rules and the laws, they vote (used to vote solely).

Women have fought for that privilege:
In the famous movie about Danish writer Karen Blixen’s life in Africa “Out of Africa”, a lieutenant when WW I is about to start, tells the main character that they, the soldiers have come to rescue women and children.
Her curt reply:
“Is that one category, Lieutenant, or two?”

It tells you something about the feeling a person has when constantly forced to a stature of obedience and inferiority. Many women also for generations believed actually that woman is inferior to man. Less smart, less capable of looking after business…less able to learn about science or technology.

In this day and age almost no one around here ‘dares’ to argue this anymore.
Yet, the sandbox and its castle of male ‘games’ are very much alive… To some extent, being superior and always cool, calm and collected has become part of men’s biological setup, so it seems: To feel as a man properly, certain situations and emotions are crucial. Some even have imbibed the spirit to the extent that they become furious in situations that question their stature.
It is a sad story, too, though.

Men are not allowed to feel sorrowful. They are supposed to provide for the family, protect everyone except themselves and be ‘successful’, which usually means some kind of wealth and the means to build a house, have a car – and pay for the children’s education.

They are not supposed to grumble about it. On the contrary, with cheerfulness – or at least something amounting to it, calm in dangerous situations – and smartness anytime and every time, they are expected to be wonderful, passionate lovers, gentle fathers, considerate brothers and sons.

They are allowed other kinds of emotions only in times when sports events become dramatic: Their favourite team in football, soccer or baseball losing – men suddenly are allowed to cry. But only then.
Not even the death of a dying relative is supposed to make them show a chink in the armour…

Armour seems to be the operative word: An armour created of steel and glamour and heroism – when in truth, men are just as vulnerable, proud and sad in their hearts – and sometimes would much better like to just ‘pack it in’ – and run….

I am a woman writing this, trying to understand. A little. My own life has been marked by this yearning: To understand. For real.
I have also been raised that way by a smart and kind mother and father, each in their own way: Do not believe the superficial. Don’t run with the crowd, just because it is large and loud…

I have read more books in the course of my life than I have met people. Italian, French, German, Austrian, Polish, Swedish, Norwegian, Swiss, older and newer poets and novelists, Russian, British, Spanish, Greek, Turkish, US, Chinese, Japanese, African, Australian, Indian, South-American, Canadian, Middle-Eastern, you name it.

Yet, I have met heaps of people too.

One of my passions is to know about people – and know the truth. However painful it may become, at times.

The above about me is meant to show how I as a woman come to write this. I’d like to encourage men and women alike to not settle for half a life, for fear of being different.

It’s a Wonderful World – Let’s Keep It That Way!

I created this little impression of how beautiful this world is, almost anywhere you care to look.
We do not have a ‘planet B’!
Even if people seem to explore the chances of ‘expanding’ into space one day: I wonder if we should look for solutions for problems elsewhere, when we created the problems here, in the first place. It might almost seem as if we were ‘dumping’ one planet for the sake of another? Like an old TV?

In this day and age it might seem, as if some countries are more fashionable – or more beautiful – or more fascinating than others.

To me, it is fascination all round – by differences – and the colourful way so many people, nations, regions and cultures exist, side by side, even at the same time, peacefully. Where contact and exchange of ideas make life everywhere so much more interesting and colourful.

It’s a wonderful world! Let’s keep it that way!

Democracy in Danger – The “Banality of Evil”

lady justice with books on table

Anyone who has followed the court of law sessions against the criminals responsible for war, torture and death of millions in Germany and Israel after the Third Reich of the Nazis had ended in 1945, knows this title:
it is the title of Hannah Arendt’s clear analysis of what can be so shockingly ‘mundane’. The evil that can be part of mankind, in the guise of everyday people with faces of bookkeepers, such as that of Adolf Eichmann.

Donald Trump these days when talking into the cameras seems dreadfully familiar in his ‘banal’ and complete denial of reality – or sense of responsibility for the community at large.

For many months I refused to write about him anymore, to take any official notice in order to reduce any public effect he craves for with such utter disregard of all that is good or beautiful – or human – or right.

His disregard for law and order in their good sense, for equality or goodness, for better chances for all, and in turn his love for public recognition at any price are shameful to watch in a country such as the USA, who for decades, if not centuries claimed to be saviour of democracy and watcher over the application of human rights around the world.

That Trump still dares to stand in public claiming without showing any remorse or shame that he refuses violence, is only true to  the ‘form’ he has shown ever since he started running for office.

In their Pledge of Allegiance among other things, the US have included the phrase “..and justice for all”.
Let justice be served with all the force the legal system has to offer in the US on Donald Trump, now. It is high time for this impeachment.

Pippi Longstocking – and Female (Human) Authenticity …

-row-light-bulbs-with-one-different-colour

When I was a girl, the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s children’s books where especially well-known and widely read. As a girl you would learn from the series ‘Pippi Longstocking’ with fun and independent thought that being a girl would not necessarily mean being soft or weepy or helpless.

On the contrary: the song that came with the movies I watched long after reading the books, “I make my world just as it pleases me … ”
(my translation from German) encouraged girls to do what men in patriarchal society have done for centuries, if not thousands of years:
set your goals and try to reach them, your way.

Authenticity in Everyday Life – A Challenge?

I heard a TEDx talk the other day by a Harvard Business School professor, about trust and how to build it. She identifies three pillars for building trust, one of them authenticity.

What she goes on to say and what I agree with in every particular is this:

  • Authenticity means: “Be you.”
  • Easy to do, she adds, when you are with people who are like you.
  • But, “being you” can be a challenge, when you are different in some contexts, she adds, too.
  • It can lead to being tempted to subdue and hold back our own true and individual selves in contexts we seem not to fit into completely.

To me that is a very true and a very important statement. I am at odds with my surroundings to some extent, very often: I am not your average girly woman weeping into the silk handkerchief waiting to be rescued.

I was raised on just this idea: be independent and know that the ‘Cinderella complex’  is not just an invention, it’s there. You can prevent it.

Diversity: by Tolerance

I am an M.A. of literature and philosophy, yet I am passionate as well about technical matters, devices, coding, digital technologies, you name it.

As such I have worked around and with scientists as well as developers who in many respects think and live differently.

I love diversity!

But living it in surroundings with all manner of people who are not always sure how to understand you, when you are so ‘different’ to them, compared – is not always easy.

Men, Women…? – People!

I also think that I am not the only person ever to have felt this way:

The duality and conflict can be hard to bear, at times when there is awareness of it:

    • I may be at odds with my surroundings in some contexts.
    • That does not make me ‘wrong’. Just different.

So, how much adaptability is needed – and how much is good for me?

I’m sure that men are often faced with this conflict in the opposite sense: they are supposed to be always strong, superior and ‘ready’ – even if they don’t feel like that – at all…

And ultimately, not only as men and women but just as human beings in different parts of the world: being at odds can become a new but also fruitful feeling to start realizing who you really are.

The strength to ‘be yourself’ in any surroundings sometimes is hard to find; but worth it.

Being ‘Right’ – or Being Yourself – and Be Human

For a long time I have thought about and observed what people do, what they think, what they fear at times, what makes them cry, what makes them laugh – and I have the strong impression that in many cultures emotion, as a concept, and emotions as individual ‘moving aspects’ in life are highly underestimated.

Partly, any culture in the world has its own rules about what is accepted behaviour and which emotions are acceptable to display. Often there are differences between the sexes in these rules. In patriarchal societies, very often for women to become angry or furious, enraged and loud, is considered ‘unladylike’, at least. In former times, women often were condemned for being crazy and eventually were locked up.

On the other hand for men, being sensitive and easily moved to tears in such societies can mean to be considered disturbed of mind or at least a ‘problematic case’.

We have come a long way, partly because psychology and its insights helped. Partly, because social scientists looked closer at those rules. Because people ask and asked questions and started doubting customary ‘truths’.

We know more about what is human, what is perhaps just this ‘little wonderful difference’, that the famous French saying puts so nicely into perspective.

But many people out there believe, that everybody should be more or less the same, do more or less the same things and then will live happily and healthily ever after.
This is not true. Although we are human beings and there exist lots of similarities, as regards cultural tradition, region of birth and upbringing, gender and family – yet in detail each and everyone of us is as unique as their fingerprints.

As a renowned food chemist put it (paraphrase):
“Many health rules are built like this: When they started researching who had the healthiest feet in the country and then found that such people usually wore size 32 shoes, they made it a rule that everyone should wear size 32 shoes. But if your feet are bigger, this rule won’t fit you.”

Therefore it can be very important, to observe these two things:
Learn more about emotions, as Daniel Goleman called it first, develop your EQ, the emotional intelligence, as opposed to the IQ. The IQ tests certain functions of the brain, bluntly put, analytical thinking.
But humans are more complex than just their IQ results. For quite some time, IQ tests are ‘out of fashion’, and rightly so.

Another problematic ‘fashion for behaviour’, for ‘personality traits’, if any, in certain countries, especially in polite society, for centuries, has been taken from business:
be always cool, calm and collected so as not to appear too eager about a deal.
This almost inhuman dictum may well be at the root for many apparent ‘disorders’ being diagnosed these days, in children or adults.

Secondly, question rules that force you to be, or feel, or behave outwardly what you do not feel inside, at all.
If people have been treated with electric shock therapy for certain ‘mental disorders’ in the past century, it is a ‘shocking’ way to reveal the underlying dogma:
be right, be like everyone else, otherwise you will be ‘made to fit in’.

Another fine simile for this is the story of the farmer, who thought it might be interesting to put a piglet in a box so it would grow into a square pig. That worked nicely.
But one day, the farmer opened the box to take his square pig to market – and with a little ‘plop’ it rounded out again and was natural and pig-like.

So, I think, find out what and how you are, apart from the general rule or rules and be true to yourself, to become human and perhaps healthier than ever before.

Athena – the Goddess of Wisdom, War and Craftsmen in Greek Mythology

Athena, goddess of wisdom, war and crafts in Greek mythology, brought to life again…in a manner of speaking.

Why ‘real’ – or ‘true to life’, when talking about ‘mythology’? Which in the tradition of almost all peoples around the globe is a ‘myth’ to begin with, something like a ‘highbrow fairy story’?

Of Greek mythology it can be said particularly well that it was built, based on what was common in the society at the time:
life, love and war or parents and children, brothers and sisters. Kings, queens, gods and peasants, they figured in it, fought, won, lost, loved and hated just as human beings did – and do.

As a child I encountered the German retold stories of Greek mythology ‘en vogue’ then. I didn’t like the style. It seemed cramped and rather bent on trying to provide a sense of blind worship for the old traditions. Typical among those that seem to hold anything of ancient Greece in highest regard without checking twice – or real understanding and a broader view.

Still, recently I came across a documentary about the Greek myths that not only was colourful, consists of more than 20 parts – but also seems true to ‘life’.

The second time after reading Joachim Fernau, historian, of hotly debated, enlightened approach, who yet successfully made ancient history come to life in his books on Roman or Greek mythology and history.
Colourful, too, great fun to read, with real insight.

Athena, the Modern Woman?

Athena is particular to me because she seems to represent a figure as a woman I feel I can relate too:
not perfect, but well-liked, desired even, yet not easily taken in – or had. She fights only in order to make more peace.
She sprang from the head of her father Zeus, reigning god of Greek mythology,  at birth, also a striking way to come to life: a father’s thought or idea…

She failed once dreadfully when killing her sister in a sparring fight, where her father Zeus interfered at the last minute, blinded her sister momentarily to weaken her and thus makes Athena kill her sister accidentally.
A little background here makes it clearer:
‘Pallas’ had been her uncle Poseidon’s daughter in the tales, but both had been raised and felt like sisters. That Zeus would interfere at all, in the tales was due to an old rivalry between his brother Poseidon and himself.

That’s apparently why she is called ‘Pallas Athena’ on most statues or scrolls or in texts: she put the name of her beloved sister in front of her own to remind and be reminded for the rest of her life.

She is protective goddess of all crafts, close to arts and although I am not a craftswoman as such, I like many crafts very well, such as knitting, crocheting, or cooking.

Wisdom, last but not at all least of the main characteristics and responsibilities of her as a figure in the tales:
wisdom is dear to me and I try to attain more, as the years pass  by, always have held in it in high regard.

Wisdom and knowledge are not the same thing by a long chalk. But experience and a kind heart, as well as knowledge are the best possible bases for wisdom to come – sometimes sooner, sometimes later.

Non-violently ‘fight’ for peace, be wise, do not let them fool you and look your fellow-man – literally and figuratively – squarely in the eye, yet remember also about love or passion, quality-wise, instead of quantity: that’s what this image means to me in a nutshell. Athena.

Stereotypes – Images – Mistaken Judgement

In literature and philosophy one of the things you learn at an early stage is, to look beyond the obvious.
Or that which is apparently obvious.
The great works of art, especially in poetry, often have layers of meaning to them. And not just one or two layers. But several, in many cases.

In life, this kind of knowledge can be crucial: that the surface, the apparently obvious, the first impression, the things you hear and see with the ‘naked eye or ear’ can be completely misleading.
This fact is made use of in marketing: use images and ideas that are easy to grasp, are part of common knowledge and that way, sell – chocolate, cars, or clothes.

That’s why advertisements are often full of stereotypes, such as the wonderful housewife and mother. The cool and always superior father, the cute kids, who never complain, except when chocolate is becoming scarce… and so on, and on…

Why is this misleading, though? Aren’t there cute kids around? Aren’t there wonderful housewives and mothers? Or the superior father – not to say passionate lovers?
Of course there are!
But they are not always the only thing to know about or the most important aspect of a person.

Stereotypes exist everywhere and are almost countless.

A particularly impressive because very colourful one, connected with heaps of imagery and at the same time so easily dismantled is that of the passion of Spanish natives as opposed to that of the average European, supposed to be far more sedate in outlook:
bluntly put, unfortunately, that’s just complete bullshit.

Why, again?
What the emblematic image conjures up in the mind is the Flamenco dancer, clapping, stomping, scowling, accompanied by apparently fierce musicians strumming the guitar and the sad, sometimes fierce songs of, among other sources, the gypsies in Spain. They had been chased and abused for centuries and Flamenco, so the legend has it, expresses their fight for life.

The Flamenco as well as other dances considered to be passionate, such as the Tango or the Rumba, has seen for decades now a new appreciation and recognition in countries such as Switzerland or Germany.
Where people are considered to be less passionate, than in other regions of the world.
How is it possible then that among the famous and even in Spain recognized Flamenco dancers, there is a Swiss woman?

Because people take preconceptions and stereotypes for granted. They do not look beyond the image, the impressions, eye and ear seem to convey apparently.

But the truth is: we only understand and recognize what we know.
If our knowledge is marked by stereotypes, stereotypes is what we will see and find.

And that is a great pity!
The above example about apparently passionate as opposed to less passionate human beings is a striking one to make the point:
if we believe in it, the really passionate nature in ourselves, wherever we’ve been raised – and other more subtle aspects of people around us, may completely escape us!

So, go beyond stereotypes! Find the truth, not just the image!

 

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.