|« Jun||Aug »|
You’re in pretty good shape for the shape you are in.-Dr. Seuss
There’s the sweet kind of procrastination that feels like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where the world expects you to do one thing and instead you break out and have fun. But then there’s the procrastination where you have no reason whatsoever to do it and you’re not even happy about it. Maybe we need those stupid days to remind us that we are not meant for dolce far niente too often.
A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.
-John Barrymore (actor)
He is my hero not only for what he has endured, but for what he has become — a teacher, a sage, an activist, a humanitarian, a great spirit.
-Oprah Winfrey on Elie Wiesel
Oprah captured it perfectly: going through something serious doesn’t automatically make you a better person. Travelling doesn’t automatically make you more open to other points of view. It’s what you do with experiences and information and how they repeatedly inform your decisions that make the difference.
Whatever our goals are, we must not allow our past to become our children’s future.
-Elie Wiesel (Peace activist)
I am a fan of models which show progress in stages. The most famous stage model in psychology, albeit not the most accurate one, is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In the age of limitless information it’s easy to get lost in a sea of unconnected bits and pieces. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. We often think of limits as something bad, like for example limiting beliefs, but sometimes limits can be good as they guide us through a process. Stages tell us what to focus on now, what to keep an eye out for later but also what not to worry about just yet. If you are feeling lost or overwhelmed either google a model that corresponds to your topic (eg. stages of financial independence) or try to bring some stages to your experience. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to provide some limits.
Yesterday me and a few guys were playing soccer outside. Suddenly I notice this really old woman watching us with a smile. Obviously I don’t know what she was smiling about. Maybe she was taking pleasure out of the energy of youth (well to her that’s what we were). Maybe she quietly enjoyed the fact that unlike when she was young, now it was a normal thing for girls to play soccer with the guys and even score doing it. Maybe we reminded her of her own children or grand children. Somehow having her there made me run more and try harder. I will never know what exactly she thought but it was a beautiful reminder: even a stranger can give us kind attention and we will fill it with kind thoughts and feelings once we notice. And we can do the same for others.
If you would have asked me two months ago whether I feel insecure about my writing I would have said ‘I’m alright. I believe that it can evolve into something good eventually.’ But only now, that I have engaged in writing that is radically different from anything I do here or anywhere else did I notice that as soon as I depart from anything academic and instead engage in fun writing it has an energy that it otherwise doesn’t have. Furthermore my writing teacher really likes my work as far as I can tell. Having an actual writer come back with sincere compliments week after week made me realize that I never saw myself as a writer until now. I saw myself as a person conveying information.
Why is this important to you? Well we should not work for the compliments of others. We should find it rewarding inside. However through praise, sometimes someone might actually progress in ways they wouldn’t have otherwise. Even if you think the other person must know how well they’re doing, tell them anyway.
Sometimes something happens in your country that is a great illustration of a point that matters to people all over the world. So here’s what happened: in some Swiss school two Muslim boys refused to shake hands with their teacher in the morning. This escalated to a fully fledged political drama when the government decided to get involved and fined the boys. Despite the fines they kept refusing. And then it all went quiet, presumably because somebody must have noticed that there is no law in Switzerland to shake hands with anyone. So what’s going on? Two very different scripts are happening:
If we let them do what they want more of them will come. If we let them not accustom to our values they will keep theirs and we will lose ours. Let’s discourage this once and for all by taking a powerful stance.
I am not supposed to touch a woman who is not my wife, sister or mother. If I do God will think it’s bad and so will my community.
In our world we are told that either script 1 or script 2 will win. Whoever does not agree with this is either seen as naive, uninformed, idealistic or whatever other derogatory term fits the situation. But let’s acknowledge that there are several ways of reacting to this.
- We drag the case through all the courts. That is a possibility but before it is pursued it is vital to check in with the law otherwise we waste a lot of energy and other resources. This is a fact that a quality newspaper could point out.
- We investigate other ways that we can force them to comply. This is also a valid alternative however if we choose this we have to understand that repeating the same claims (they are morally wrong to not integrate and we ask them with ever rising voices to behave differently) will not get us there. Therefore we have to get into investigative mode exploring different ways of forcing people in legally sound ways. Also an avenue a quality newspaper could adopt.
- We acknowledge that there are some non-negotiable things like violence against women, marriage of minors or human rights where we will not budge. However shaking a hand is actually not a big deal. In fact it carries much less meaning for me than for those boys. After all, we don’t shake everybody’s hand in a large office or a class room and nobody is offended by that either. Contrasting situations in which the same behaviour results in different responses is also something that a quality newspaper could do.
- We could learn about where the rule comes from and how it is applied in the Muslim community. While not everybody might be interested in doing this a media source could then go on and show that at least the rule has nothing to do with disrespecting a particular teacher. No need to take it personal. Instead it’s a rule designed to not trouble your own wife with jealousy or the man of the woman you are touching. Do I personally like this rule so much that I want to adopt it for myself? No. Do I think it’s possible to guard against jealousy in other ways? Absolutely. Would I wish the Muslims would take this in a more chilled way? Tentative yes. But does everybody in my own culture agree with me about these topics? Not at all. So why expect something from Muslims that your own nation cannot provide?
- We can carry on like we always have: getting really excited and hurling insults at each other. We can trade back and forth the same arguments again and again. We are of course free to do that. But the price we pay is that we make it very hard to get along with each other (liberal Swiss versus the conservative Swiss) and of course with immigrant Muslims. Now people are free to harbour fantasies about stopping immigration maybe even banning Muslims from entering the country. That will of course make us less safe and draw more attention to us from the likes of ISIS but we can try. However before that is the case, we have to find a way to respond to the situation as it is. And from where I stand option 5 is the least helpful of all.
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.-Lewis B. Smedes (Theologian)