Love is not an adventure – but a journey.
Passion is not a function – but a person.
Marriage is not a commitment as in: prison – it’s a decision.
Romance is not a fleeting idea from fairy stories – but heart and mind of a person.
Life is not a sandbox and games – but responsible behaviour – and a ‘Yes’.
People for quite some time, even more so since WW II and the global ‘advent’ of an apparently global culture – have embraced the idea that business is good. More business is better. Which basically means: the higher the numbers, the better.
This leads to the rather sad realization that many people also treat love that way: they may not know better, but they act as if numbers are at the bottom of it. Love the most beautiful, the richest, the most handsome, the loudest, funniest or something else …est.
And the surface too often is taken for the real stuff: whatever someone says is taken at its face value, it seems as long as the image is ‘fitting’ the mainstream, the fashion, the – numbers, all’s well.
Particularly irritating at times is the behaviour of grown-ups, who seem to have no sense of their individual value, who think that having fun can have one connotation only – and that it is also fine to listen to what the majority apparently has to ‘say’ about these matters.
Who are constantly testing their market value by flirtatious behaviour or coy looks and moves – and seem to overlook completely, that they are transformed into a product, on ‘the market’… Almost seize to be human, and loose all individual character in the process, because they try so hard to be ‘part of the crowd’, the majority. Fulfil general ideas, instead of being a person.
So, what people believe, seems to amount to this:
The majority, it is taken for granted, is always right.
Fashion or what people take for it, the mainstream, is the best thing to have – or be. Or at least be part of.
The majority states that having fun means, more of everything is better – even in love. Or what they take for it.
If one conquers ever so many more and new people every other day, not only will certain others look up to them – it will make life so much more interesting and – fun…
All these assumptions are based on the idea of numbers: and since human beings are not ‘working’ by numbers alone or even mainly – these ideas will never result in what many people are looking for. Instead, the boredom and the uneasiness continue – and become more. More people, more exciting moments become necessary to fill the void, scare away fear or anger – and less and less insights into their own soul, true needs or sorrows are possible.
What will be impossible to find, are fulfilment and the inner calm of ‘having arrived’. The ultimate contentment. These things can be found only inside, not out.
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
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.
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.
coexistence, if aimed at, needs these few ideas:
with self-esteem and the realization of being human and thus imperfect comes more
security by feeling adequate.
to know yourself better to help self-esteem along.
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.
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.
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…
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 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’.’
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.
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.
This short video is another example of the TEDx series of talks that I like to share. And it could be for you, if
you are a young lady between 17-24 and want to learn or be reminded of what can be important to remember for a life.
you are a lady of more advanced years and had temporarily forgotten all about it…
you are a husband, father, son, brother, uncle, cousin, granddad…or… to find out about what it makes sense to teach young ladies – and why.
The ideas expressed are generalizations to some extent, as is customary for a short talk. For individual human beings and situations we always should look more closely to be as just as we possibly can.
But these ideas provide excellent pointers!
Emotional well-being and self-confidence are essential ingredients for a day – and a lifetime.
So, enjoy, everyone out there, who come by – and like this, too.
(Young) gentlemen, although in this day and age, in many regions of the world it seems too self-evident: you are oak-trees, too!
(Young) ladies, remember: you are an oak-tree already!
The recent years brought to light something that is as disturbing and dreadful as it is tragic for many people: the Catholic church unearths more and more details about abuse that has been going on behind its walls at least for decades, if not much longer.
So far it seems, bringing to light and the first apologies by bishops and the Pope himself have been first steps to acknowledge what in fact is criminal behaviour in a religious body.
It could make people, who attribute a value to that faith as well as that particular belief, despair, of the church as well as religion or even life.
One is tempted to ask, why do we need a church at all? Or a religion, for that matter?
I think, Erich Fromm was right in stating that religion is an expression of the yearning for transcendence in man (and woman). Transcendence of life and the sometimes hard to explain pain and suffering we see every day.
I have been a Christian in my time – and in some ways where people grow up and are raised, the respective history and prominent religious orientation of a society are important for mind and thinking – the frame of mind of a human being.
In this context modern Christians could be tempted to despair because the message in the later part of the bible, the gospel is focused on neighbourly love. On goodness and on God’s grace for all that have sinned on the day of resurrection.
This made Dostoevsky in one of his great novels, “The Brothers Karamazov” ask, how it could be that a gracious and judicious God could allow suffering, and especially the suffering of innocent children.
To me, one of the most wonderful answers to this almost eternal question has been given by John Steinbeck in “East of Eden”. The main character one day realizes that his faithful Chinese servant of many years is not only highly educated but a scholar. His servant tells him that after studying the bible in its common English translation and the Hebrew original, and especially the chapter Genesis, whose interpretation modern Western society is based on to a great extent, he found one sentence particularly striking and its interpretation crucial to what was going on in a great part of mankind.
‘Thou shalt go forward into the world and rule it and subdue it…’
Quoting Steinbeck’s text from memory at this point: he goes on to say that after years of study, he found the verb ‘shalt’ had been wrongly translated from the Hebrew and instead of ‘shalt’ it should be ‘mayest’.
From this would come the realization, that God hadn’t just entrusted his creation to mankind in a sense of commandeering action and correcting human errors himself where necessary.
Rather, the term ‘mayest’ encompasses the idea, that – human beings are also entrusted with choice – the choice between good and evil – every day.
To me this is the most important answer to any wrongs, crimes, pain, cruelty and suffering we may observe or go through: there is always some choice a human being can make, in any situation.
Many people due to this special context grow up in the firm and mistaken belief that someone else is responsible for their deeds, be they good or bad.
They feel and behave even as grown-ups not much differently from childhood: a little ashamed now and again they still think, breaking the rules cannot be too bad, if no one finds out – or no one complains.
This idea of choice is also the idea of personal freedom in this sense: ultimately any choice we make, is ours. Whatever way we decide.
It is responsibility, for creation, for our neighbour, for ourselves.