PERSPECTIVE: NOT LESSER – ONLY DIFFERENT

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We are all equal in terms of rights; it is not birth but virtue that should make the difference” – Adapted from Voltaire

 

Inequality in conditions is a fact of life. But equality of rights and opportunity should be the keystone.

It is a fact that due to a number of factors beyond your control you are different from any other person on the planet. But you are not lesser of a person than anyone else. Only different.

Opportunities may abound for those who are born under a certain circumstance, but almost any person can be anything and anyone they want to be – as has been proven with regular monotony – depending on how they see themselves, their perspective on life and how they make use of opportunities, which are often self-created.

 

Physical

Physical differences are inescapable, even if you are one of an identical twin. And that is where the difference should – but not always does – stop. It is my belief that this is one of the main points of departure for most discrimination – an unforgivable wrongness visited on vast multitudes of people by those who fear or are ignorant of the value and qualities of those they discriminate against.

 

Social

We are all equal in terms of rights – or rather, should be. Virtue should be the differentiating factor. Stories abound of people who have moved between social classes (despicable though it may be, they do exist) through self-application and a “can do” attitude.

For me the measure and worth of a person is counted in the way they treat the less fortunate amongst us and those who are different from themselves – including those we refer to as the animal kingdom.

Strive for equal treatment in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, color, disability and age. Find inspirational stories that are unbiased – in terms of specifically politics and religion – as a basis for personal motivation. Then embrace personal growth.

 

Mental

Empower yourself by way of learning, training and introspection. Leave behind the thoughts and people who will hold you back, keeping you entrapped and enslaved in their ways of doing and thinking, often for selfish reasons.

 

Emotional

I grew up in a racially divided country, now married to a lady of different ethnicity and the emotional impact of discrimination against her – by way of diminishing comment, aggressive behavior and yes, at times even swear words which leaves her emotionally hurt and frightened – is often compellingly visible to me.

Other than a wish for war to disappear, my next wish would be for discrimination to evaporate.

 

Intellectual

As a concept “intellect and being intellectual” is defined as a mental ability that allows beings to understand and through which things can be known. This is not the prerogative of any one person, elite group of people, a nation or even mankind. I question the approach that we are the intelligencia of the universe – and need to reach out to other life forms, including our animal friends. Animals understand and things become known to them. They show hurt and affection as we do and I daresay that it is not only instinct that guides them.

 

Spiritual

Death – the Great Equalizer – does not discriminate, even though the tenets of religions include a promise of a better life beyond the present. We will eventually all “shuffle off this mortal coil” (to quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet) – some early and quickly, others older and in greater pain – however, spiritual preparedness will provide fortitude and ease the fear of those who are staring Death in the face, as well as the pain of those who remain behind.

Until then, we will do well to remind ourselves that “different” does not mean “lesser”.

 

Key Principles

  • We are all different from one another, even those who are identical twins.
  • We are all equal. Virtue should make the difference.
  • Some thoughts and people may entrap and enslave you by way of doing and thinking.
  • My next wish would be for discrimination to disappear.
  • Intellect is not the prerogative of only some.
  • We are all equal in the presence of Death.

Action Steps

  • Stop discrimination.
  • Strive for equal treatment.
  • Empower yourself by learning and introspection. Disregard and escape those who hold you back.
  • Don’t discriminate against what you don’t know or fear. Reach out and learn about it.
  • Exercise your mental ability that allows you to understand and know things.
  • Prepare spiritually for the End of Life Cycle you live in.

PERSPECTIVES: CRISES – DESPAIR OR GROW

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Man is not imprisoned by habit. Great changes in him can be wrought by crisis – once that crisis can be recognized and understood” … Norman Cousins

 

As a flame purifies metal, so crises can purify us. But not everyone comes out of “the heart of darkness” unscathed.

The Mandarin word for “crisis” (weiji) is formed from combining the characters for “danger” and “critical point” (not “opportunity” as is popularly believed) – representing both a threat and a point of choice – offering an opportunity to despair or to grow.

 

Physical

Physical crises and the response to them take many forms, the impact of which varies from person to person and community to community. Imagine the emotional, mental, social and spiritual impact of a physical rape. Or incurable cancer. A national financial meltdown. Or natural disaster and the loss of property, lifestyle, possible even the very food and water you and your children need to survive.

However, as noted above, there are two sides to the currency of crises.

Physical hardship forces people to re-evaluate the context of their lives – the difference amongst what they “want, have and need” to survive. It brings out the real character within them – leading to either despondency or inventive resilience by recognizing that they always have a personal choice.

 

Social

Most crises are created by man, being it financial, political, environmental, moral or otherwise, all of which will eventually impact on a person’s or a society’s economic sustainability, security, environmental and thus societal frame – such as unemployment, financial hardship, homelessness, loss of self-esteem, depression and even crime to mention some seriously major ones.

We not only live in interesting times. Our times are also quick-changing and often stress-riddled. People might be out of work for years and despair that their plight find no resolution or sympathy within the existing political framework or even the system as a whole.

But taking another look at the meaning of “crisis” we note a “critical point” – an opportunity to exercise a personal choice. The past is not the future. Every day is a new day with new discoveries, surprises and pathways to explore. And refreshingly the sun that shone on all the great artists, philosophers, and spiritual leaders, is the same sun that shines on us every day.

Look up! Stay focused. Steer your life – don’t let it steer you. Self-made opportunities abound, as has been shown with monotonous regularity. Much depends on your perspective and outlook. Review where you stand, work on your legacy goals and use them as stepping-stones to re-energize yourself.

 

Mental

In mental health terms, a crisis refers not necessarily only to a traumatic situation or event, but also to a personal or a nation’s reaction to the event.

Humanity is not a global village in terms of how it handles crises. Individuals and nationalities handle them differently – as was quite evident in the way that the Japanese handled the impact of their tsunami and how similar catastrophes have been handled elsewhere.

 

Emotional

A crisis may play out in different theatres i.e. global, national, local or personal and in various forms, such as war, storms, typhoons, earthquakes or a personal breakdown. People may weather a global or national crisis but succumb to a personal one. One of my long-standing friends was experiencing a personal crisis as I wrote this and she would go and sit in the sun to “warm more than my skin”. These few but intense words say so much: the need for physical, mental and spiritual warmth and a light to shine in a very dark place where even the soul is cold – but to hopefully emerge whole, if not intact.

 

Intellectual

A resilient spirit and soul is what conquers crises – not just an avalanche of money and technology which are often thrown at challenges in today’s world.

Needed is a mix of vision, foresight, expressed goals, but also a flexibility to navigate through troubled terrain. And a confidence in your ability and capacity to face a crisis, live through it and not succumb in the process.

 

Spiritual

Spiritual crises often follow a major personal upheaval such as the death of a beloved, news of a life-threatening disease, near-death experience or major accident. However, it can also follow the commitment to a personal spiritual journey and engagement in related events which may change one’s frame of reference and system of meaning – one’s purpose in life, values and beliefs, goals and attitude and even one’s identity and destiny.

Mind-body-soul is a unity, and the outcomes of spiritual crises and thus opportunities will affect you physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and even intellectually. It may thus be wise to postpone any life-changing decisions whilst living through a personal crisis.

Engage with Nature, read uplifting books and poetry, listen to meaningful music and envisage despairing thoughts as clouds that melt away. Make a positive choice! And live it.

 

Key Principles

  • Physical crises take many forms and the impact vary from person to person.
  • Most crises are created by humans, but remember every day brings new opportunities and choices.
  • Humanity is not a global village in terms of how it handles crises.
  • People may weather a global or national crisis but succumb to a personal one.
  • A resilient spirit and soul is what conquers crises.
  • Spiritual crises may follow both personal upheaval and commitment to a personal spiritual journey.

 

Action Steps

  • Re-evaluate the context – during a crisis define what you “want, have and need” to survive.
  • Stay focused. Steer your life – don’t let it steer you. Let your goals re-energize you.
  • Rise above the turmoil by drawing on both your inner and external strengths.
  • Appreciate emotional warmth.
  • Create a vision with expressed goals and a flexibility to navigate through crises.
  • Treat despairing thoughts as clouds that melt away.

 

PERSPECTIVES: TRAVEL – 3…2..1. LIFT-OFF!

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“Not all those who wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien

 

Cast off. Don’t stay moored! Paradise has not been lost. It is only hiding – to be discovered by those who knowingly embark on an unknown adventure. That was the preface to my almost three years of life-changing backpacking walk-about throughout Europe, the Middle East/Turkey and the UK.

Marco Polo was not the first European to travel to China, but the chronicles of his epic journey inspired many – including Christopher Columbus, European cartographers – and myself.

Even as a well-read person – which I thought I was, having ravaged books about South American, European and Asian civilizations from the age of 12 – I was refreshingly surprised by the gap in my knowledge of historical and cultural gems elsewhere on the planet.

 

My Journey has become my Destination.

 

Physical

What do you return with from your travels?

Most people will bring back a few T-shirts, some bits and pieces and a camera, mobile phone or iPad loaded with photos. But what we all return with is a montage of memories of what we did, whom we met, where and what we ate – exciting and tender moments. Pictures and experiences etched in our minds – around which we will have conversations for a lifetime to come.

Travel provides you with an insight, a heightened experience and conscious opportunity to learn about life – tradition, culture, food, clothing and the way others conduct their major ceremonies of marriage, welcoming babies into the world, entering adulthood and burials.

It helps you find your own place in a diverse world – realizing that you are a stitch in the larger unfolding Tapestry of Life at this moment in Time – grateful for being here and the opportunity to live a life of awe.

 

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“There are no ‘lesser’ people, only different people” – Lesson Number One from my travels. Other selected ones include:

  • Be humble and share. You are not the center of the universe.
  • Different points of view exist. Respect them.
  • We all share the same little blue dot.
  • Appreciate other cultures. Make friends regardless of sex, race, religion, color, creed, culture.
  • Both young and old have opinions and much to contribute.
  • Health is wealth.
  • Appreciate the structure within which your life has meaning.
  • There is always a friend somewhere.
  • Money does not buy everything.

 

Mental

Traveling is much what you make of it. Guard the quality of you travels by remaining in a positive frame of mind. Recognize that both people and weather are “part attitude, part nature” and not to allow either to disturb your travels.

It is worth the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to have the same approach to any “bad weather days” that Life may deal you.

 

Emotional

I have found that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them ~ Mark Twain.

I have travelled alone as well as with partners and enjoyed both experiences. I am never bored with my own company – and through reflection have become more acquainted with myself.

Time changes everything. You can only do something once for the first time. There is no second “first time”. You never stand on the banks of the same river twice. Life is not a loop, though we sometimes want to make it one – seeking comfort in the trappings of stability and a safe nest to keep returning to.

On reflection though, we stand at the Dawn of a New and Unexplored Day every day we are alive. May Courage be you travelling partner through it.

 

Intellectual

As a backpacker I did not plan my days – or even the countries I visited – in detail. I did not travel to go anywhere specific, but rather to keep traveling. To experience. To move. And not through boredom, but driven to turn the mental pages of unwritten books. The journeys I have not traveled. The cultures I have not explored. To try satisfy the bit of Marco Polo inside of me.

It is still there inside of me but now tempered by the responsibility to provide my Life’s Partner with more permanency and less fleet-footedness. The “I” have become “We”. Though we have already lived in and travelled through many countries since we met.

 

Spiritual

We share a journey on this tiny speck of galactic dust. As a child I followed the beep-beep of Russia’s Sputnik in 1957 and the unfolding space race, dreaming of travel amongst the stars, hoping to one day personally see the marvels of the Universe unfurl.

Travel puts us in spiritual context with the rest of the Universe and its creation.

In the broader spectrum we are all on a journey through our own personal Universe – Life. And one day we will cast off, not to return to the same place.

 

Key Principles

  • Travel provides one with insight, a heightened experience and opportunity to learn about life.
  • There are no ‘lesser’ people, only different people.
  • Traveling – as is Life – is what you make of it. Do not let “bad weather days” disturb it.
  • We stand at the Dawn of a New and Unexplored Day every day we are alive.
  • I did not travel to go anywhere specific – just to try satisfy the bit of Marco Polo inside of me.
  • In the broader spectrum we are all on a journey through our own personal Universe – Life.

 

Action Steps

  • Let an inner journey discover who you are.
  • Appreciate, enjoy and respect the simple and invaluable things in life – which money can’t buy.
  • Approach with a positive spirit the “bad weather days” that Life may deal you.
  • Let Courage be your travelling partner every day you are alive.
  • Temper Life with responsibility – especially when “I” becomes “We”. But don’t stop living.
  • Cast off – don’t stay moored.

PERSPECTIVES: THE FOOLS OF OUR TOOLS

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“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity” ~ Albert Einstein

 

“Have we become the fools of our tools?”

 

Recently a sociologist picked the gas lighter as the Number One technological invention of all time – portable instant fire in your pocket at a flick. Yes. The ability to make fire was one of the most important technological advances ever. A heated cave. Cooked food. A flame to scare off dangerous animals. The ability to melt iron into tools for hunting and weapons for protection, plows for cultivation, the settling of nomadic communities.

I am well aware of the important role technology plays and the miracles and lifestyle benefits it has bestowed upon humankind over millennia. But pivotal events over recent years have me asking the question I pose above.

Two factors are important:

  • Technology itself has no conscience, compassion, or morals. Inventors, applicants and their motivation define it. The inventors of the atom bomb were horrified by its destructive power but politicians proclaimed it a life-saver that ended a long war. Opinion depends on where you stand, and where you stand depends on the chair you sit in.
  • Our relationship with technology. Some of society and civilization’s most critical elements now rest on technology. Vast electricity, water, even defense networks are controlled via technology that can be incapacitated in a matter of mere seconds.

 

Physical

Technology affords people much “freedom of expression and makes life richer” whilst industry suffers billions of dollars in lost productivity due to the abuse of slick social applications during office hours.

  • Where does this arc ultimately lead to? How much more “freedom and richness” do we need – especially during working hours?

Counterpoint: Miraculous medical developments have afforded countless people extended lifespans. As for personal mobile devices, many people also use them for work purposes.

 

Social

The printing press supported the cultural, financial and spiritual Renaissance between the 14th and 17th centuries.

Future generations will similarly measure us by what technology they inherit – whether it remained our servant, became our master, perhaps even executioner. Our legacy should be more than technological remnants.

Social media has given “Power (back) to the People, right on”. It’s effective use in political campaigns and digital protest movements have changed governments and the political map. Effective yes, but with what social outcomes?

  • Will we leave the world better than we found it or has technology become “one small step for mankind, one giant leap for financial, political and personal power grab”?

Counterpoint: We define the world we live in. Technology-based applications put billions of people productively in touch with each other daily, simultaneously enabling those with a sinister side to abuse it. Like boxers in a ring, we should protect ourselves at all times.

 

Mental

Chernobyl. Fukushima. Stark reminders that for all of humankind’s ingenuity and technological inventiveness we are mostly powerless in the face of disasters and still dependent on nature’s mercy.

  • Is our faith misplaced in our ability to develop and control technological advances for the positive use of humankind?

Counterpoint: Technological advances augment the human spirit. It allowed humankind to scale Everest, explore space, visit the deepest oceans and enrich our lives with countless expressions of what is achievable.

 

Emotional

Cyber-bullying tears the heart out of children. Faceless character assassins hide cowardly behind digital addresses. People end relationships in less than 140 twitter characters.

Counterpoint: Social software applications let friends and family stay in touch, swap photos, and strengthen emotional bonds. Portable devices bring joy and relaxation to people at all times.

 

Intellectual

Society depends on “black box” technologies of which operational people know less and less. New technological creations often do not advance our intellectual powers and has led to a generation of whom many cannot spell or do mental arithmetic, whilst handing these selfsame people the power to thoughtlessly use it for abusive purposes – only to demand the ability to erase their follies afterwards.

  • What happened to discipline, ownership and responsibility?

Counterpoint: The internet was originally developed as an information-sharing tool between scientists and has developed into arguably one of humankind’s greatest achievements. Not surprisingly – it also developed a darker face.

 

Spiritual

From pulpit to porn – and everything in between – can be found on the internet, itself sadly becoming the addictive centerpiece in many lives, turning them into “part of the road” as it steamrolls over them.

The Ages of the Mega-church and Mega-death have arrived on the back of technology. The world has become a place where human life can be enriched or taken by the press of a button.

  • We now hold in our hands the power to abolish both poverty and life with little effort. Which shall we choose?

Counterpoint: The adoption of technology for spiritual re-awakening and practicing stands in contrast to its application for corporate lifestyles. We have all heard great speeches and music or seen films which have moved us spiritually during life-pivotal moments.

My world is much better compared to when I was born. People live longer. Travel has broadened my mind. Technology afforded me a platform on which to build most of my life. I listen to great music and talk with friends anywhere on the planet. I am physically, socially, mentally, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually richer with it than without it.

 

And I am still happy with an “older model” of my mobile phone.

 

  • Have we become the fools of our tools?

 

Key Principles

  • Technology affords people much “freedom of expression and makes life richer” – but where does this ultimately lead to?
  • Our legacy should include more than technological remnants. What world will we leave behind?
  • We are still mostly powerless in the face of natural disasters and dependent on nature’s mercy.
  • Software applications strengthen family and friendship bonds by staying in contact easily.
  • Our intellectual powers are often not advanced by new technological “black box” creations.
  • We now hold in our hands the power to abolish both poverty and life with little effort.

 

Action Steps

  • Define your relationship with technology as best you can.
  • Protect yourself at all times.
  • Let technological advances augment your spirit.
  • Put technology to good social use.
  • Maintain discipline and accept ownership and responsibility of how you use technology.
  • Enjoy technology.

PERSPECTIVES: LUCK IS FOR THE ILL-PREPARED

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Diligence is the mother of good luck” – Benjamin Franklin

 

You’ve got to ask yourself a question: ‘do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” – Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan in “Dirty Harry”. We have all seen the movie. And the punk got lucky. That day.

The harder I work, the luckier I get” is a quote attributed to several people, including Gary Player (golfer), Samuel Goldwyn (the middle name in MGM studios) and a host of others.

It has variously been described as a meaningful coincidence of unrelated things, an escape from responsibility, a false idea that may produce positive thinking which changes a person’s response for the better, a self-fulfilling prophecy and as a form of superstition. Hence it varies by philosophical, religious, mystical or emotional context depending on the interpreter.

Many in-depth studies has been done on it with one definition suggesting that it is “a purposeless, unpredictable and uncontrollable force that shapes events favorably or unfavorably for an individual, group or cause” (Noah Webster’s dictionary).

 

Physical

Luck is luck in retrospect. You don’t know if you have had “good or bad luck” until you have some perspective of the outcome of matters. Whenever I reviewed my “luck” I could afterwards see the dots connecting the events.

You win lotto – was it luck? Did the ticket just blow into your front door? You hit a hole-in-one on a golf course. How many thousands of clubs have you swung? Were these actions out of your control?

 

Social

An aura of luck may surround self-made people, but there are rules to luck. Prod them for answers and they will relate stories of late nights, hard work, diligent research and analysis – following a set of logical steps on their path to success. They have taken risks – and sometimes lost.

Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates were not lucky. They made their own opportunity and then prepared themselves for it. Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Rolling Stones have not been lucky. Many hours of practice preceded hard-earned success.

Gamblers sometimes have an illusion of control over random events. But when their “hot hands” and “hot streaks” are analyzed over time they even out. How many gamblers win constantly at “luck-based” games?

 

Mental

People make their own luck – and good fortune. Yes, given there are instances where people were at the right time at the right place and “luck happened”. But Seneca the Roman philosopher reminds us that “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”  I would add to that “and a willingness to do something about it”.

Life is not as easy as we would like. Most people will have to deal with challenges and tragedy during a lifetime. At times it is called “bad luck” to give us a hook to hang our emotions on. However, to deal with and overcome it we must muster wit, understanding and energy. Not good luck.

 

Emotional

It is said that Edison conducted 17,000 experiments before successfully creating the incandescent light bulb. Both success and failure motivated him – eventually holding 1,093 U.S. patents in his name.

Successful people learn to manage the emotional contrast between the highs and the lows of winning and losing. They see themselves to be surrounded by countless opportunities every day – regardless of the uncertainties that also lie in wait. They celebrate success and put their losses behind them, letting go of their feelings of disappointment – and persist forward.

 

Intellectual

Cause and effect. That is what science and motivational speakers teach us. You do not wake up as a successful writer or speaker one morning.

Take your luck into your own hands. J.K. Rowling conceived the idea for the Harry Potter series on a delayed train in 1990 and only published the first novel in 1997. That is not called luck, but hard work whilst enduring many personal upsets including a death in the family and a divorce. Though the measure of her success can be calculated in terms of finances, what Is beyond calculation is the effect she had and still has on reading amongst the youth when reading was not in fashion.

Whatever happens, happens due to a cause and will have an effect in your life sooner or later. Why wait for luck when you can lead!

 

Spiritual

The great religions of the world is not the product of luck. And they do not believe in luck.

From a moralistic perspective, it seems that the cards would fall right for some – born into wealth – whilst others would not even sight a single card. Well, if we believe that we have no control over destiny then why not just sit and wait for a life ordained by The Angels of Luck or Predestination.

Your life is based on the merits of the choices that you make. You might be born into wealth but not into luck. Make your own.

 

Key Principles

  • Luck is luck in retrospect.
  • An aura of luck may surround self-made people, but there are rules to luck.
  • “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
  • Successful people manage the emotional contrast between the winning and losing.
  • Cause and effect. That is what science and motivational speakers teach us.
  • Your life is based on the merits of the choices that you make.

 

Action Steps

  • “Connect the dots” between cause and effect.
  • Study the lives and methods of successful people – then apply the rules.
  • Develop a willingness mindset to do something about “luck”.
  • Celebrate your successes and put your losses behind you.
  • Take your luck into your own hands.
  • Be prepared and create your own opportunities. Then your own luck.