Learning and Knowledge – Simplistic? The Democratic Change

ancient printing press and printers
No large numbers of readers without the printing press

‘If they all loved research, who would do the baking?’

What I mean? Consider this quote:

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Sounds familiar? It’s said to be a quote of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates.
Complaints of one generation about the next are an age-old phenomenon. Be that their behaviour – or quality of education.

“Knowledge is power.”

This is true too.

The Power of Knowledge in Religion

That is why for centuries the bible would not be translated into German (from Latin). In German speaking countries, Martin Luther, founder of the protestant religion, was the first to translate the full text. After more than 1000 years of the Christian religion’s existence! Between 1522 and 1545 he worked on that, not alone, but it was his initiative.

The Christian faith had been used to manipulate people and keep them in fear of the church’s dogma before that. The majority of people would not be able to read even then. But they would start to understand the text itself.

Luther’s motives were mainly religious, and he ‘only’ wanted to ’empower’ believers into choosing the right preachers. Into understanding instead of following the priests like a flock of sheep.

This example makes it a case in point: Knowledge and understanding need to be spread. Appropriately.

Learning and Knowledge Degrading?

Recently we hear and see (written) complaints about knowledge becoming too simple, too lightweight, as it were.
That people for the wealth of media to consume forget how to read properly, for example.

But let’s remember for a few minutes: The general ability to read and write was not available to the whole of a population until only a couple of generations ago.

Basic Democracy

The general compulsory education was not introduced until well into the 18th and 19th century in many countries!

It also meant a very basic education, mostly. When the civil society really took a stronghold politically. When more and more leaders of countries, emperors, kings, local potentates, started to realize that an educated population ultimately strengthened innovation and the future of business – and thus their power.

People did not have computers, but they had theatres, with lightweight comedies, too. Types of ballads / dramatic songs (according to regional tradition) with images that were sung to the audience or explained by those that displayed them. Ghoulish songs and fairy stories, some more some less deep…

There will always be those that love to do research. Who love to read heaps of books from cover to cover. Who love to be scientists and answer the basic questions of mankind.

But not everybody wants to be a scientist. Just as some love to repair cars or bake bread for a living.

If they all did research, who would do the baking?

Emotions, Panic, Humans – and ‘Ol’ Siggi’…

Pavement mosaic with the head of Pan. Roman artwork, Antonine period, 138–192 CE. (courtesy Wikimedia Commons, lightly cropped)

Ever since ‘panic’ was defined in ancient Greece, it also was clear that it is a powerful emotion. To this day, the root of some of the most tragic events and results of large group gatherings is panic.

What is Panic, Exactly?

‘panic (noun) – Sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behaviour.’
So the Oxford dictionary. As so often is the case this dictionary puts it in clear and concise language:
‘sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety…’

Emotions Spread…

One of the most striking results of research into emotions that Sigmund Freud (‘Ol’ Siggi’) already described were the phenomena of ‘transference’ and ‘projection’. Both basically mean that human beings can feel each others emotions, sometimes in reverse, sub-consciously.

This effect is also what causes the spread of panic in large crowds: it’s not a rumour or words so much but the actual feeling, the emotion spreading between humans, causing those dreadfully tragic flights which so often crush people below them, when others start running and trampling, regardless.

Emotion – or ‘Energy’?

In other more ancient systems the emotions are sometimes called ‘energy’. The possibility of transferring emotions between humans. So far, modern science such as physics hasn’t found or developed instruments that would measure these ‘energy fields’.

Although the names are different, the ‘thing’ is the same: emotions, feelings, warmth, they are transferable, the more so the better a person understands and accepts their own emotions, without judging them.

Everyday Life

Which does not mean: ‘acting them out’!

Basic, almost everyday example: someone who for some reason or other becomes suddenly angry, has several ways of expressing that anger:

    • they could hit the person in front of them.
    • Or they could hit an object, such as a punching ball.
    • Or they could say ‘I am angry’, leave the room and take a good long walk, until the anger has passed away.

I have read so many books in the course of my life and analyzed structure as well as meaning and the underlying patterns – as well as that of other kinds of stories, such as movies, poems, you name it – that I could cite such examples going on for hours.

Find Yours

But the long and the short of all this is: especially in Europe people who are completely unfamiliar with either actual experience of that kind of energy being transferred – consciously! – or with Sigmund Freud’s and his disciples’ writings, may find some of those people who know, rather inexplicable.

Additionally, people who have been raised on very ‘reasonable’ not to say cold lines, may find it almost impossible without taking certain kinds of ‘medicine’ to ever feel deeply.
Which is very sad to know – or to watch.

I encourage anyone who reads this and perhaps yearns for deeply stirring moments or experience in their lives, to do some research, find out about the close connection between body and mind – and not ‘take’ anything other than the occasional herb tea or spice.

Tu Felix Austria – Lucky Austria, You… In Spite of Corona…

female statue with crown on fountain as Austria allegory
Allegorical Austria – Austria fountain, Vienna (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

In these times I’d like to remind all of us of the ancient saying that stems from the Habsburg monarchy, meaning the tradition of the dynasty not to make war, but love, you might say:
that is, they married smartly throughout Europe in order to tie bonds of kinship with courts all over Europe, to keep the peace rather than make war.

This is the origin of this actually wonderful concept:
Bélla geránt aliī, tu félix Áustria nūbe.
Nám quae Márs aliīs, dát tibi díva Venūs. (Latin, 1384)

Wars may be led by the others, you, lucky Austria, marry!
‘Cause what to others is Mars, Venus, the goddess grants you.

So, it’s perhaps the earliest possible dictum of ‘make love not war’?

I put this here just for feeding thoughts… and perhaps to invoke a smile on my readers’ lips…

In these hard times, we should remember, it’s not about being best or first in blaming!
Blame politicians for small(er) errors in the face of a pandemic?
Blame officials for being too harsh – or not harsh enough?
Blame hospitals for not saving beds in order to be prepared for taking care of more people?
Blame everybody for lockdown measures, because the economy is suffering worse than ever before?

Yes, it is true, tragedies arise from all of this; many have lost their jobs, their livelihood(s), their prospects of a promising future, for quite some time…

But let’s remember these few very important facts:

    • the lockdowns are about people being kept alive!
    • the economy suffers always, in pandemic times!
    • in ancient and medieval times any pandemic plague wave was so much more worse at every turn!
      • dead bodies literally lay scattered in streets!
      • trade or any other kind of contact practically was impossible, because people would die right there in the room, in front of others, often in the middle of a negotiation (try Giovanni Boccaccio’s “Decamerone“).
      • decades would pass until things were back to something equalling normality.
      • death tolls ran up to millions of people in each realm, leaving whole regions empty, villages deserted.

We should remember how lucky we are, compared, here in the middle of Europe:

    • a high standard of living to begin with.
    • heaps of fast available data, being provided practically every second.
    • technology and research at an all-time peak in order to develop and approve vaccines inside of months!
    • a large part of the population agreeing on the value of each human life!
      • there were times when lives were reckoned by society strata: so much for a worker, so much for a merchant, so much for the king…
    • information based on a huge amount of well-educated reporters, journalists and scientists!
    • even more data available on every aspect of possible business strategies to get us all through this.

I dare anyone out there complaining harshly about measures taken:
be a politician and do it and decide – in ADVANCE!

Tu Felix Austria, remember, this is a wonderful country of ancient history, tradition, innovative ideas, culture and thought, with usually friendly, and very peaceful people, who know how to work – and how to enjoy life!

Taxes…?!

cafe and post office peaceful people walking

Everybody always complains about taxes: money the government gets from income or actual wealth. Some make it a point and feel extremely fine when they even swindle the government out of taxes, as if they were a modern hero, a ‘Robin-Hood’-type…

But those who complain the most or even put their money into companies or banks outside the state they made it in, are those that benefit most by stability, infrastructure, general level of education or innovations. Innovations based on creativity which is much more probable when the surroundings are calm and secure and ‘knowledgeable’ enough.

The countries in the world with the highest tax rates at the same time are the most stable, secure and – compared – social in terms of healthcare, care for the elderly or the streets you walk in at night… you name it.

Before the civil society was ‘invented’ based on the concept of democracy, in Europe the so-called ‘feudalistic system’ was in place: no working hours, almost no social security in terms of laws, except severe – or not so severe – recommendations, greed and selfishness almost unhampered by law, so anyone who felt like it would populate the streets – and rob.

Knights very often just as much as the poorest, who might be forced to send their children away, as in the famous fairy story of ‘Hansel and Gretel’: where it seemed the parents were to blame, when in actual fact a complete lack of social security was.

Modern taxes are there to support a government and its officials in running a system of society that is – comparatively – just.
Just by protecting the weak and keeping the strong(er) ones at bay.

Streets are clean, buses take you almost anywhere, and are usually reliable and on time, trains carry goods with schedules that make planning possible.
Children from an early age are well-kept in kindergartens and preschools, to be educated well, and kept safe until their parents get off work.
Hygiene standards in public healthcare are high, as indeed they are in research and technology – which makes it possible even during a pandemic to take care that society does not sink into an abyss of poverty and despair, as it did during the plague.
Justice in law is aimed at.

No human system is perfect! Alas, the sky is blue everywhere, as someone put it. Or, even more lyrical, the sun shines for the righteous and the unrighteous, the same way.
But very often, the ‘dose makes the poison’!

And so keeping an eye on those that are weak of character, anyplace, in government, law and the community at large, is a good idea.

But: too low or NO taxes are a bad idea!

The Great Relief: Return to Sanity in the Oval Office!

sunrise behind cityscape

Finally, a couple of days ago, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been inaugurated, a combination of sense, reason and humanity, so their actual background let us surmise.

There is sun behind the clouds, more than a glimmer of better things and thoughts to come in one of the most powerful nations of the world today.

And now, inside of days, Biden, Harris and their government already started to retrace steps, to get the ‘ocean liner’ that is called the USA back on the route they always called their ultimate goal: freedom, equality and peace for as many as possible. Not just make the rich even richer.

Yes, Biden and Harris will face the history, and they know it too – the country is divided by trenches almost as in war, due to the completely irresponsible and downright bad messages online and offline Biden’s predecessor delivered until a few ‘minutes’ before his step down from office. Also unprecedented, not being present at the inauguration, which would be called extremely ‘bad form’, at least.

Let us beware, the difficult times are not over yet. Watch out for the forces behind people like Trump: their greed should not be underestimated.

Yet, after years of fear and distress for no reason except an apparent madman in the seat of the president of the US, now comes relief, even if by degrees…

Let’s celebrate!

The Kingfisher, the Nest and the Perspective – Keeping Busy?

two colourful birds on their perch

Commonly, at least in patriarchal society, rumour has it that men are apt, in long relationships, at least, to become more easily unfaithful than women.

For centuries, women were supposed to do everything they could to prevent that. Even were blamed if a divorce seemed inevitable, as a matter of course. To this day, even latently, women are afraid (some more than others, to be sure) they might lose him; feel compelled to ‘behave’ the way he needs it.

This also to some extent, alas, depends on the manner of independent means they possess: if they are dependent on the man for life support, the power balance is surely tilting to his side.

That is partly the reason why women started getting into ‘business’, taking up a profession: be of independent means so you do not have to ‘sell’ your soul and body to a husband.

Yet, over the centuries and to some extent to this day, it seemed more ‘natural’ for a man, looking at some species of animals too, to have more than one female companion/wife.

The kingfisher seems another of those examples that seem to ‘explain away’ why men are just unfaithful by nature, poor sods, and cannot help it, poor guys…

What if – we changed the perspective on this for a minute?
What if – women (female of the species) are far too busy once the young ones have arrived, with tending the nest and feeding them?
What if – being busy makes (independent) females often be more content with less than one male around?
What if – the male of the species just needs ‘to keep busy’, one way or another?
What if – you sat them plump down in the middle of the nest and let them take care of it?

What if – you take this to the human level – and see where it gets us? Try famous Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler’s story, called “Traumnovelle”.

Perspective is key, most of the time!
This means: there are facts, pure and sometimes simple – and their interpretation.
Very often facts bear interpretation in more direction than one – or two.

Love – Human, Basic – Eternal?


Love is a human emotion. It’s one of the five basic ones. But its shapes are numerous: There’s friendship across and among the sexes, there’s love between parents and children and there’s romantic love, as well as bodily love, as the more ancient term has it.

Why would it be considered eternal?

Two very basic experiments and their results come to mind:
There was an ancient king, if I remember correctly, who was part of Greek mythology, although unfortunately his name escapes me at the moment: He wanted to know what babies really need to survive. He put a number of them into a secluded spot, where they were fed and clothed and taken care of – but not loved. They all died.

Now, as a myth, my readers might think, well…

But, in recent decades this has been confirmed in a most sad way: After WW II many babies were orphaned because of the war. Sometimes, just ‘lost’. But the same thing occurred and apparently people concerned found out by sad trial and error:
Babies that were kept warm, clean, clothed, well-fed, but unloved, not caressed or talked to, died. Healthy.

Consider what happens to grown-ups: when they feel ready to despair of love; lonely, depressed and devoid of hope, they suffer heart attacks and die. They may, tragically, commit suicide.

Hope is an emotion that is based on the idea that good will come. The confidence and trust that loved ones can invoke.

So, yes, in all the hard times that can be laid on human beings, and for all the hard ones I’ve seen, I still think, and consider myself lucky:

I’ve seen friendship, love, care of parents and relations. I’ve learned what helped me. Close to despair one day I met a person who without any apparent reason smiled at me, a warm smile. And suddenly I realized, what makes the sun rise in my heart:
Love, unconditional, in all its shapes.

The sound of it seems to be captured in the wonderful recording of Antonin Dvorak’s “From The New World”, his symphony no. 9, conducted by Ferenc Fricsay.
An excerpt of the most beautiful parts in the first movement here:

Quiet vs Talk? – Talk and Quiet!

sunset trees lake

Times can be tough, I have seen many and gone through a lot of such times. I still consider myself lucky, in many respects.

I find that talking can be overestimated. But so can quiet. As has been said similarly elsewhere:
there’s a time and place for everything.

Sometimes we talk to others in order to exchange ideas, or information.

Sometimes we talk to others to feel close by being understood and listened to.

Sometimes we talk to others so we can make the heart’s burden lighter, or to let off the steam of anger.

Sometimes we talk to others to clear up things or answer questions.

But often, there’s nothing of the above necessary. We are at one with ourselves and our emotions and ideas.

In such times, being quiet can be the order of the day. Know that our near and dear understand.

In hard or sorrowful times, a good cry can help. Or letting off steam by punching something

Hugging near and dear helps.

Work helps.

And laughter helps. Always.

Distraction – Internet – Productivity – or: Us?

In recent years documentaries and books as well as blog articles tell us how disruptive the internet is to our work ethics, how problematic it has become for people to constantly check their phones and so on social media about their latest ratings, the newest trend, even if only purported, or the most scary news.

Of course, with any new technology, it is added, this means we should be careful, not to say beware: dreadful things are happening, people become dumb, or dumber through the internet, more distracted, less able to focus.

But as I posted before, history can teach us: neither these warnings nor the idea of a new technology or medium being dangerous to the average person’s mind is really new.
When Gutenberg invented printing, the church and other ‘forward thinkers’ predicted dreadful consequences, for minds as well as morals of the population.
When radio came first into being, it was a wide-spread fear that those waves would damage brains or thinking or make impotent or even criminal.
When TV arrived on the horizon and was made available to the masses, the same happened, all over again.

The presumptions in all of this are:

  • There’s an actual average level of the mind of humans that can be damaged or ‘pulled to depths of iniquity’.
  • There’s a crucial point where certain kinds of knowledge or insight might cause the ‘fall from grace’ to happen again, the paradise-situation and first sin all over again: eat the fruit of enlightenment or insight and you will be disgraced.

What all of these prognosticators disregard sadly, are some basic truths of history and humans that are not all nice to look at but still true:

  • For thousands of years dreadful crimes have been committed, cruelty and torture, by the inquisition, an institution of the Christian church, as well as feudal landlords, have inflicted pain and suffering and death on innocent people.
  • Wars have caused actions of killing and torture the average mind shudders at. Rape, hunger, sophisticated torturing, you name it. And most of the time mankind exists, there was no internet, no social media and no radio, books or TV around.
  • People, in throngs, used to visit public hangings and punishment that was institiuonalised torture, many a scary movie these days would shy away from depicting.
  • Women were called ‘witches’ and tortured and burnt at the stake long before any of the abovementioned media were around, again, no radio, no books, no TV or internet.
  • People always have exchanged sensations, told stories, true or false, ‘spun yarns’ and – looked for excitement in an often too boring reality.
  • The ballads that were sung, the shallower of the plays in mass theatre productions, ‘wall newspapers’ that would pay tribute to any of the today’s tabloids, were in abundance long before analogue or digital technology were even thought of.

If anything, in many parts of the world with higher education levels and more well-paid jobs available, cruelties have decreased – except for times of war, which ‘behave’ according to precedent – and according to crimes’ statistical records that cover around two centuries now.

So, I like to put it rather like this, as someone said somewhere a couple of years ago:
‘Smart, educated people will smartly use and become more smart with using media, dumb ones will become dumber.’

It means responsibility again, too:
the better we ourselves learn to discern and also teach our children discretion of good or bad or the best media, the more hope is in it, for all.

Talk to – Talk About – or With…?

When we grow up, we learn how easy it is to get into an argument… Start a fight, even if is the better variant, namely a fight with words, which can get heated too, at times.
And how easily we say things we don’t mean in a heated argument. I’ve posted about some of this before.
And then sometimes we hurt people’s feelings, even those near and dear, nilly willy…

The consequence often seems to be, growing up, that we stop ‘talking to’ people about anything that might seem remotely apt to hurt them. Their ideas, their needs, or wishes, or yearnings…
Instead we talk to people around us about the others.
Thus Peter will talk to Jane about Mary and what she seems to be or want – and he talks to Mary about Jane… but he will not talk to Jane about Jane.

And that can be by far the greatest pity of all, because assumptions we make in talking to others about someone else – and the very often wrong images created about those people – not only present a biased outlook on that person.
Not only can they hamper any future contact since we judge people basically by a ‘rumour’…

Assumptions are like the little story about the man and the hammer by Paul Watzlawick, a hyperbole:
the man wants to lend a hammer from his neighbour, starts remembering the neighbour’s recent looks and his own impressions – and ends up knocking on his neighbour’s door, almost yelling at him, when the door opens, he ‘well could keep his hammer for himself’ for all it’s worth!
While the neighbour mildly wonders what has happened.

Paul Watzlawick, an Austrian, famous in family therapy and communication theory, in Europe and especially the US, who published this nice little book called: “Anleitung zum Unglücklichsein”/”The Situation Is Hopeless, But Not Serious: The Pursuit of Unhappiness”, 1983

Acting on assumptions only, in addition, we may miss out on the most interesting and perhaps most moving aspects and moments in life…

So, I would like to put this here:

  • Talk to each other! Not about
  • Grown-ups may surprise you too: when you believe they are vulnerable and will get angry right away, they may react reasonably and naturally, even interested in your point.
  • Anyone you would deem interesting enough to talk about could be twice as interesting to talk to!
  • Sometimes, just acting on and listening to assumptions – our own or those of the others, will block a broader view and deeper understanding.

Let’s be less daunted – talk to the other!