Oh vanitas! said the old Romans. Often have I wondered why certain people attempt to be over-ambitious and thwart other people’s plans on their way to being at the Top. As if that were the sole purpose of our short lives.
One friend told me about having been bullied for years by her female boss. The lady succumbed to an illness shortly thereafter.
Another, male, wanted to create his own “environment” by ruthlessly gathering information about his employees and then twisting the truth to use it as accusations against them, if they did not do exactly as he wished or if they thought up new, ingenious ideas that could disrupt his secret plans. He seriously hurt several dozen people, emotionally and career-wise, who then had difficulties scrambling back onto the road of normalcy.
Do you remember the movie “War Games” from 1983 with Matthew Broderick? Where a young man attempts a dialogue with the computer he has hacked into and suggests playing the game of Tic tac toe? After numerous runs of the game, the mighty computer gains the insight that no one can win, there is always black and white, good and bad, war and peace. The computer accordingly cancels the initiation of another world war, thus saving the planet Earth.
The current situation in Venezuela is crude: the Venezuelan citizens suffer hunger, thirst, lack of medication, yet are not allowed to pick up aid parcels from trucks on the Colombian side. The military have set up too many barricades, following orders from the Top.
Why can’t people use their common sense and love of one’s fellow man in order to help instead of hinder? We don’t need terrorists and twisted minds. We only have one planet and one life. And the life of either is short. Make peace. Save the planet.
The photo above took me more than half an hour of patience at the Botanischer Garten in Munich.
But I do believe it was worthwhile waitingfor the butterfly to settle down. (Oh, I just noticed the alliteration and the pun : www.) The biology expert talking to the visitors explained that these butterflies have about three weeks to procreate and then settle down forever. Naturally, they are ‘flutterier’ (is that a word at all?) than other animals who have a longer average lifespan.
Patience is a prerequisite to a happy life. If any of you has ever read M. Ibrahim et les Fleurs du Coran (Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, 2001), you will know the quote on page 71:
« La lenteur, c’est ça le secret du bonheur »
If you look mire closely at the wings’ edges of the blue and black butterfly (oh dear, another one: bbb), you can tell that some butterflies tear their delicate wings in the netting as they frantically flutter to and fro (fff! can’t help it!).
In our everyday humdrum lives it is not always easy to do or to practice, but one should always try it with patience. Some Asian cultures have Buddha as a symbol (for complacency also?) or the lotus flower, which Yoga-lovers like imitating when they sit cross-legged on the floor. Some people enjoy cooking in their kitchenette or sailing around the world in a tiny nutshell. Some love music (farewell, Sir Simon Rattle! what a fantastic concert in Berlin last night) or love dancing, like I do. Some soft-spoken ones adore the “sound of silence”, like up on the mountain tops or diving to the ocean’s depths or even going to churches at Evensong, like St. Paul’s, London (eternal thanks to Sir Christopher Wren) silently savoring Gregorian-like chants and German hymns (I wonder which colleague of mine asked them to do us that favor?)
Our current Pope Francis, age 81 in 2018, is afanal for us Christians. If you really believe in the saying “You should practice what you preach“, then you can easily identify with his lectures and precepts. My rule of thumb is, as he says, if you don’t act according to what you profess to believe in, then you are neither trustworthy nor credible. Exactly like “The Boy who cried ‘Wolf!‘ “. A façade – phenomenon which is actually quite sad. People you cannot trust do not have many friends, that is a fact.
I am sure many of us cheered Melania on when she recently corrected her husband’s course on U.S. immigration policy and splitting up families. In this instance, Melania reminds me of Catherine Parr:
It is thought that her actions as regent, together with her strength of character and noted dignity, and later religious convictions, greatly influenced her stepdaughter Lady Elizabeth (the future Elizabeth I of England).
Catherine or ‘Katheryn the Quene KP’ (1512 – 7 September 1548) was the last of Henry VIII ‘s six wives. She was also the one who suggested he become the founder of several Colleges in his old age :
So, once again, we are remembered by our deeds, those deeds which help others get ahead, by showing patience, courage, love and generosity. Now doesn’t that remind us of another loving wife and philanthropist, Bill Gates’ Melinda? Just look at all those wonderful things they have been doing with the money accrued over his comparatively short business life. Truly amazing and inspiring. Another instance of love and patience.
Check out this anecdote sent to me by a good friend from Sri Lanka:
When Nelson Mandela was studying law at the University, a white professor, whose last name was Peters, disliked him intensely.
One day, Mr. Peters was having lunch at the dining room when Mandela came along with his tray & sat next to the professor.
The professor said,
“Mr Mandela, you do not understand, a pig & a bird do not sit together to eat“
Mandela looked at him as a parent would a rude child & calmly replied,
“Do not worry professor. I’ll fly away,“
& he went & sat at another table.
Mr. Peters, reddened with rage, decided to take revenge.
The next day in class he posed the following question:
“Mr. Mandela, if you were walking down the street & found a package, & within was a bag of wisdom & another bag with money, which one would you take ?”
Without hesitating, Mandela responded, “The one with the money, of course.”
Mr. Peters , smiling sarcastically said,
“I, in your place, would have taken the wisdom.”
Nelson Mandela shrugged & responded, “Each one takes what he doesn’t have.”
Mr. Peters, by this time was fit to be tied*. So great was his anger that he wrote on Nelson Mandela’s exam sheet the word “IDIOT”
& gave it to Mandela.
Mandela took the exam sheet & sat down at his desk trying very hard to remain calm while he contemplated his next move.
A few minutes later, Nelson Mandela got up, went to the professor & told him in a dignified polite tone,
“Mr. Peters, you signed the sheet, but you did not give me the grade.
Don’t mess with intelligent people….pass it on to your intellectual friends….
* informal: very angry. “Daddy was fit to be tied when I separated from Hugh” Synonyms: livid, furious, angry, infuriated, irate, fuming, raging, seething, incensed, enraged, angered, beside oneself, wrathful, ireful, maddened, cross, annoyed, irritated, exasperated, indignant (source: Google)
Now ain’t that just fine? Mandela is truly inspiring. I am not a good chess player, but I know how to play. I most certainly admire those who do. Stefan Zweig’s Schachnovelle (The Royal Game, “Chess Novella”, first published in 1941. ) fascinated me, also in its film version (DE 1960) with Kurt Jürgens. Maintaining one’s mental health by concentrating on something precise, mathematical, calm and cool, I love that kind of intellectual challenge. You will have guessed by now that I attended the maths section and always played with the guys, never with dolls.
BTW, snorkeling in the Maldives, Caribbean or Hawaii is another way of cooling your temper and regaining your calm. But then again, that will be the topic of another post.
Most of you will know this song title by Eminem and Sia (Album Shady XV, 2014). While I greatly admire Eminem for being and eminent WHITE rapper, I must admit I am not much into rap.
As to Sia, I loved the voice but didn’t know a thing about her until I looked her up and found out why: she is eminently shy! Not that I can see any reason for that, her voice is great and I just loved (most of) the lyrics:
Afraid I will never find a way out, out, out,
So here I am and I will not run
Guts over fear (the time is here) (…)
It is a truth that holds true time and time again. Sometimes you must just overcome that innate fear. You must pull yourself up, proud and tall, and assert your right to your own life, not necessarily against all odds, but against taller, louder, more assertive people who have no qualms howsoever at quashing any kind of resistance or creative thinking, especially when it comes to women:
An angry man’s power will shut you up
Which reminds me of Thumper, the cute bunny friend in Bambi, whose momma commented on what is the best way to react in such a situation of extreme pressure :
“If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”
It definitely pays to be patient and consider your next move, somewhat like on a chessboard. In many cases, it is wiser to remain silent and gather up your courage for the next confrontation.
My heroines are – mostly – courageous women who have stood up for their beliefs. One of them, Maija Plissezkaya (1925-2015), lived in Munich in the Theresienstraße for many years. Russian prima ballerina assoluta. Courage, thy name is woman. Try reading her two books “Ich, Maija” (1996 I, Maija) and “Haltung bewahren” (2009 Retain your Composure/ Posture, a pun on the meaning of Haltung). Both books moved me to tears, as there is a lot of Russian history background, Stalinism among other scenarios, against which this brave female had to battle. For many, many years the men in power refused to let her leave her country and dance elsewhere.
I was reading the first tome sitting in the underground train / subway with the cover photo turned up – and the two ladies who sat down across from me gasped. As it turned out, mother and daughter were Russians and were delighted to see their brilliant ‘star’ shining in Germany as well. Later, I wrote a note to her editor to tell her how fascinated I was by her life story and I even received a pleasant thank you note in return, shortly before she passed away in Schwabing in the summer of 2015 at the age of 89. She appeared on stage at the age of 70 even. The usual age to stop one’s dancing career is about 40.
My second heroine is Lucia Lacarra. A Spanish Basque, Lacarra saw her first ballet at the age of 14 – which is terribly late for a ballerina – and made it all the way up. When I heard that the Munich National Theater was dismissing her “for being too old” (sic!), I hooted and swore I’d head up to Dortmund some day to see her and her fantastic husband Marlon Dino again. At least Dortmund’s director Xin Peng Wang had the sense to ‘sweep her off her feet’ and invite her to his theater. Lucky him/ Dortmunders.
My third role model doesn’t even realize that she has helped me in my darkest hours with her determination and elegance and pluckiness. She has danced in Tokyo and Salzburg and has taught me how to stand proud and tall. I get to go to her classes on Saturdays and now that I have improved, I really look forward to every class.
Guts Over Fear, Haltung bewahren, stand TALL. Like a dancer. “Such stuff as dreams are made on” says Shakespeare in The Tempest). Ah, dream ….
Be the girl on the right! is the caption of a pic with 5 little ballet girls at the barre. The one on the right refuses to do exactly what she is told. She is “told off” by her teacher.
Marguerite, Margarethe or Gretchen from Faust and Marguerite (1900) also stands on the right. She is unsure of what to do:
„Nun sag, wie hast du’s mit der Religion? Du bist ein herzlich guter Mann, allein ich glaub, du hältst nichtviel davon.“ Goethe has her ask the seducer. When she decides to trust Faust, she is sorely betrayed and shall later kill the newborn ‘child’ – whom I also see as a symbol of her feelings of guilt and shame.
Have you ever considered the fact that your boss might be using the exact same ploy to “seduce” his employees to do exactly what they are told? Nowadays, such behavior is no longer considered seducing, but bullying. However, if any one individual offers a piece of constructive criticism, he/ she is immediately quashed?
Vae victi! We alle know what the consequences are, such as burnout, di-stress (as compared to eu-stress), feelings of insecurity and angst. Of guilt and shame that we are no longer standing up to our own convictions, but meekly accepting another ambitious person’s will – voluntas – over our own. Of no longer believing in ourselves!
When I hit upon the word HISTRIONICS on OWAD (One Word A Day, Paul does a fine job) the other day, I had to laugh, the definitions and examples reminded me sooo much of a certain person. A person I had trusted, believed in, considered a role-model for many years, who suddenly turned the tables.
The word histrionics was either formed from the English histrion, meaning actor, or it was borrowed from the Late Latin histrionicus, which also referred to an actor, theatrics or pretence. (…) Histrionics, which at its core means overly dramatic and superficial behaviour, can be a useful skill if one has chosen an acting career. On the other hand, for the layperson it can lead to a personality disorder called HPD, or Histrionics Personality Disorder.
How can you get out of this emotional turmoil?
Step One: Listen closely to what that person says and analyze the underlying meaning of those words. Did I accept these words at face value? Or was the said person’s intention quite another? Write down those typical quotes and try to look at them from different angles.
Polonius: What do you read, my lord? Hamlet: Words, words, words.
Step Two: Believe in yourself, your personality, your talents, your life’s goals again. No matter what anybody says to or about you. So what if you do not live up to someone else’s expectations? All it means is that you and him/ her were not meant to be – it takes two to tango. Find some more congenial surroundings, another job, another place, another hobby, other soulmates.
Step Three: (The hard part!) Be patient. It took me many years to come to the realization that I hadn’t been the one with the problem, but that bully! Start by feeling sorry for that person – and then forget him/ her ASAP (as soon as possible). The feeling of relief is immense, be assured!
So, now you can pretty well do as you like. My therapy was / is ballet and gym, music and instrumental lessons, choir, arts and crafts, friends’ support, being with children who are more spontaneous than adults : “Kinder und Narren sagen die Wahrheit” (Children and fools speak the truth).
Don’t we all wish for a Happy End? Thankfully, I have found my Prince Charming – and my peace of mind.
According to popular belief, I had always believed that if you grew up in different cultural circles and could easily feel at home in many places, but didn’t really belong, then you were a kind of mongrel. I said as much the other day to a friend and was rather surprised when she replied: “Ah! but no, that is considered cross-cultural. Something entirely different!” That brought an article to my mind titled something like “It is cool to be mixed“, referring to people such as Tiger Woods (I’d much rather talk about Yul Brynner, ouh là!) who are of mixed racial descent, in fact, a combination of so many races as to make such people stand out from the crowd.
But no, my blood lineage is pretty straightforward Western European. I just happen to have been born and raised in another country. Being forcefully repatriated during junior high, told to learn my second late-beginning mother tongue in lightning rapidity in order to be able to keep up with the stiff standards of a Bavarian Gymnasium (junior and senior high school with a sort of college degree after 13th grade), I pluckily did my best.
As a result, my German is nearly as good as my English and vice versa and my family – an added boon for finding a good job – is 99% bilingual (allowing for 1% of hilarious internal Denglish that only we can understand). Naturally, we fit in everywhere, yet never really belong. That aspect never bothers us much, it is usually the others that point it out. Reactions vary from “How interesting!” to “You’re putting on a show” to being downright hostile “I’ versteh’ di ned (viz. I can’t understand your pronunciation) – “Warum red’st du ned Deutsch med dei’m Bub’n?” (Why don’t you speak German with your boy), certain natives who are wary of anybody who speaks Hochdeutsch, standard German, and more so of users of foreign languages.
Perhaps that is why I tend to seek out interesting people who have a similar background and lifestyle. Perhaps that is my reason for sympathizing with anyone who has experienced racially influenced diffidence or cold-heartedness, be that person from Taiwan or Bosnia or Belgium or Colombia or France or Togo. One thing I am sure of is the fact that I feel most at home with creative people, like musicians, dancers, art-lovers, culturally educated men and women, because in our cultural heritage we can find a common language that speaks from the heart, not from some chauvinistic notion of “my nation first”.
Pineapple cakes – a gift from Taiwan – are not just a delicious snack, I was told that one entire pineapple goes into two miniature cakes, so they have a heart of gold. Just like my friends.
One day Moshe Dayan, who lost an eye while fighting in the British army during World War II, was stopped for speeding by The Old Bill. “I have only one eye,” he protested. “What do you want me to watch – the speedometer or the road!?”
Dayan, Moshe (1915-1981) Israeli minister of defense (1967, 1969-74) and foreign minister (1977-79)
– The Old Bill = die Polizei, the police
“Imagine” sang John Lennon, just imagine that people would open up both eyes and really be concerned about what is happening around us.
No, I am not going to complain about our situation in our developed countries. We are comparatively well-off and live in freedom and have a beautiful countryside here in Europe – also in all the other countries I have visited all over the world.
As to the natural weather catastrophes and pollution and ugly city-scapes, they are almost all man-made.
As to greed and corruption and hatred and false ambition, they are, unfortunately, also within human nature, but the dark side of it. Renaissance Man will try to suppress these “basic instincts” and strive for a higher level of knowledge and aesthetics.
Nowadays, though, I see a larger tendency among the affluent to selfishness and the NIMBY effect (as is “Not In My Back Yard” propagated by the the USA in those years of Panama Canal and Cuba Crisis and Nicaragua guerrillas). They are too anxious to retain their current standard of lifestyle and fear that others might struggle to achieve the same. They are so fearful that they shut up their mouths and close both eyes and refuse to hear pleas for help from those oppressed and bullied.
Imagine we could have a world with visionary leaders that are proud and fearless, selfless and generous, noble and true, who listen to constructive criticism and try to save the globe, not just a tiny chunk of it. Men and women like Macron, Obama, Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, M.L. King, and countless others.