Quite some time ago I was made aware of this little phrase, so short – yet with quite an impact, if you think about it: “Fake it till you make it.”
It means, as many of my readers will know or find out that you would – especially in a business context – rather overdo (‘overstate’) your skills or abilities. Then, after landing the job or the project you’ll acquire what is needed and do the work anyway.
I was raised on the opposite, translated from the German: “Be more than appearances would suggest.” “Mehr Sein als scheinen.” It refers to the idea that a modest behaviour is aimed at, in spite of appearing skilful or wealthy – or wise.
There’s the British understatement I was also made aware of early in life. It’s a similar approach: Be modest, not overbearing and do not be perhaps even a little ‘vulgar’ by boasting, even if its essence would be true.
There are surroundings and countries, in business as well, where the opposite, the ‘self-marketing’ approach is expected.
Usually that is no big deal. But when you work in one part of the world where people expect behaviour they feel to be common – and you noticeably behave differently, things can get difficult. At least, misunderstandings are practically around every other corner.
That’s why I also think:
Let’s be careful when encountering people from other regions, with different backgrounds. The differences are in detail. First and last.
“Your life’s whatever you make of it.” That’s a popular phrase meant to bolster confidence – or even motivate employees… Well, there’s more to life than meets the eye at a glance. Anyone who’s gone through life longer than just a couple of decades has come to realize what Baz Luhrman so aptly said:
“Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.”
Many smart comedians, philosophers and coaches will tell you that. It is actually a wise person who realizes it – it has been known for centuries if not thousands of years among people, mankind even.
There was a ‘modern’ urge when the civil society began to form that found one outlet in the possibility to emigrate to the USA, then dominions still. With a huge country apparently all there just to find your luck without any shackles or strings attached, the credo was: “Your life’s whatever you make of it.”
Was it, really?
Even the first settlers faced grave challenges, partly from indigenous peoples who wouldn’t all easily accept that land-taking by strangers. Bluntly put.
Additionally, so few conditions known, many pioneers just died from starvation due to completely different climate and soil conditions.
Yet, marketing and people who wanted to sell this idea and self-promoting methods as new ways to happiness and self-made wealth just persisted publishing self-help guides.
The idea of course is appealing. But in the long run it will lead to anger and frustration, because it leaves out all those chances life presents us all with: Recently we were all witnesses to it again on a huge scale, a pandemic, with millions of deaths.
We were lucky too, in many ways, in many parts of the world. But the long and the short of it is this:
Life is full of chances and conditions and surroundings that will make it easy or difficult to reach goals you wished to attain.
Sometimes, just knowing there is a philosophy behind it, summarized like this, can help:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.”
Here is a fine short documentary on the game of Backgammon and its vital difference to chess: Chess is like war. But Backgammon is like life: And it is thousands of years old. It was even used to teach princes at the ancient courts of Persian kings to be sophisticated and wise leaders of their governments.
We cannot control everything in life. A lot depends on luck and surroundings. But we can always try to do our best in any given situation.
It’s a German language version with English subtitles:
Erich Fromm, Alexander Lowen, Sigmund Freud, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Victor Hugo, Alxandre Dumas, Charles Dickens, The Brontë Sisters, Shakespeare, Plato, Immanuel Kant, Aristotle,…the list goes on and on and on…. And those are only a very major few dealing with live, love, sex, gambling, man vs mankind, culture, thoughts, ideas in human life, right, wrong, and human needs. I’ve read so many books in the course of my life that I can truly say they cover a mid-sized library. A couple of thousands.
Opposed to that are the images you find in many Hollywood movies (often especially the ones drawing huge audiences), on Social Media – strange word for such a rather ‘un-social’ market place – but then, ever since the Ancient times it was common calling bad or problematic things by good names – to lessen the fear or dread of it, such as the Black Sea known to be dangerous to sailors. They called it “Pontos Euxeinos” in Greek, the friendly, kind sea.
Market places: Marketing images are everywhere – and they ‘feed’ on stereotypes.
Reading and thinking on your feet, you might say, trains the mind; trains your thinking, to go beyond common images, and be – at some point – a complete and wholesome human being rather than someone chasing the latest fashions in order to be fashionable – and be ‘IN’.
The monster, the lady in distress, the prince and the common man to rescue her so they can fall in love with her afterwards…
C.G. Jung, a Freud-disciple, called them ‘archetypes’ that have been around for many centuries in human existence, in the West at least, and patriarchal society, and thus are part of all our common (usually unconscious) heritage of ideas and wishes.
Most important in this respect to me are these ideas:
Knowing about something does not mean you had to do it first in order to understand.
Wisdom is not the same thing as knowledge. Wisdom is the combination of empathy (know human emotions) with experience and knowledge to truly understand human life.
In this day and age many people are surrounded by more and more digital as well as analogue devices and consequently, by impressions, news and ideas. Articles and blog posts (such as this one…) are added to the already huge amount of data every other minute.
I am glad that we have the possibility to retreat into ourselves. At least, I am one who appreciates it.
People on this earth are raised according to regional cultural tradition, to family tradition, sometimes religious ideas and last but not least, according to the latest global trends, as they are published on so-called ‘social media’. In actual fact, some of these trends are just born from the fear of not ‘fitting in’, not be part of the majority.
I’ve posted about this similarly before.
I have to admit I pity people who are unable to relish peace and quiet, because they cannot bear the thoughts inside. The ‘stream of consciousness’ that so many of us feel, sometimes more, sometimes less noticable.
Worries and sorrow can sometimes be hard to bear. There are numerous good ways though, to find rest for the mind. Sometimes it can be necessary to consciously look at all the thoughts that bother or worry us. Let them ‘float past’ though, without holding on to them.
Sometimes emotions can become so strong as to overwhelm us. Depending on what we have learned, it can be more easy to deal with that alone. In the company of people it may become difficult to just let go and have ‘a good cry’, for fear they might be worried.
But the laughter also, and the conscious use of wisdom, comedy and humour are crucial, especially in hard times.
I consider myself to be privileged in many respects: I have a job I like doing (see also my ‘About’). I have enough free time from it to follow other favourite pursuits, such as cooking, digital video editing, reading, music and many more.
I feel that exchanging ideas with like-minded people can be fruitful and joyful at the same time. Like-minded people do not ‘grow on trees’. That’s why I like both: talk – and peace and calm around me.
I also believe that any peace we have the chance to actually ‘live’ in our daily lives can help to increase world peace as well.
An African saying I like a lot, is said to run like this:
“When many little people in many little places around the world do many little good things they can change the face of the world.”
So, greets to all of you ‘little people’ with big hearts and minds out there.
Peace to all.
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 between 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 to:
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.
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.