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Monday, February 13, 2012

The gift of awareness

A water bubble became aware of its individuality and looked around. It thought, “Wow! So many of us, and yet, we’re all so unique!” It started observing the bubbles around and realized that some were small, others huge, and many were in-between. Some looked worn out, as they had become stained by the motions of the ocean. Others were clear and shiny and looked beamingly light in the glow of the sun.

The water bubble danced along with the others and soon realized that they were creating a wave. As he moved up to the top of the wave, he got mesmerized by the view: “Oh goodies! So many other waves! That means so many more bubbles like me! And look! We’re so powerful together!” Soon, however, the wave descended, and the water bubble started craving another high. It waited a while to see what was happening, but soon got bored from the lack of activity around him. It rolled away from the bubbles that had surrounded him so far and started traveling through the ocean. Earlier, it had seen a wave that was higher than the others and in its youthful zest it wanted to be part of that one. The water bubble got confused by the many new bubbles and waves it encountered. Some were rather friendly, but some were indifferent or a bit snooty, and some were downright rude.

Finally, however, the water bubble arrived at the large wave community. It took some getting used to the new culture, because these were aggressive bubbles: they were hyperactive and bubbled away as if they were the center of the universe. The water bubble learned that his new bubble community was preparing to create the biggest wave so far. They had negotiated with some of the other smaller waves and reached an agreement: they would merge so that they would be even more powerful and maybe even become the ruler of the ocean! The water bubble prided itself in being part of this enormous wave and imagined how all other water bubbles would look up to the wave of which he was now part. And indeed! The wave soon attained the reputation of being the giant among waves, and many water bubbles from the other waves were joining the gigantic wave, making it even larger, and even more forceful. Every time the wave would ascend, the bubbles held tight and roared in excitement, causing a sound that impressed all other waves in the surrounding.

The water bubble had now experienced many roaring ascends, and was getting bored with the constant ups and downs. It suggested to the other bubbles to team up with even more smaller waves and expand into a wave like no one had ever seen before: a tsunami! That sounded like a fabulous idea to the others, and soon the merging started: waves that were not too eager to merge were simply seized. Once the number of bubbles was so much that in the furthest distance there was no other wave in sight, the major rise started. Higher and higher up went the wave. It seemed as if it was going to catch the sun! The clouds in the sky quickly moved away by this scary sight, and the wave grew with dazzling speed to a petrifying height, seizing boats, even major ships, and rushing straight to the shore, where people had been alarmed about this mammoth of a danger that was heading toward the land.

The gigantic wave towered over the land, penetrated multi-story hotels on the beach, and made its way inland for many, many miles, leaving a trail of dead and destruction wherever it went. When it finally calmed down, and the water had returned to sea, there was devastation among the creatures that lived on the land. And the water bubble? Well, it found out that water bubbles, like everything else, are impermanent. On the height of the tsunami, it got smashed to a 17th floor hotel window, and splashed. The air in the bubble merged into the airwaves outside, and the water fragments returned to the ocean along with all the rest. Moral of the story: everything arises and passes.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The gift of life

Just recently I read an article in a Surinamese newspaper about a man who went to a party with his wife and kids, drank too much, started arguing with his wife, and on the way back got in such a rage that he had his wife get out of the car, after which he drove into a river, thereby taking not only his life, but also those of the couple’s three children, ages 6, 3, and 1, who were in the car.

When one gets confronted with such nefarious acts, any comment seems pointless. I cannot begin to explain how many times my heart has cringed in sadness about the horrific last minutes of these innocent children. How dismayed must they have been to realize that the man whom they trusted to protect them from evil and misery turned out to be their executor? There is no greater disillusion thinkable! Where could we even begin to look for causes and effects? We can dig into this man’s family history or search for a pattern of domestic violence that should have alarmed his wife and family, but that doesn’t return the lives that are lost. We can try to find fault in the man’s culture or we can analyze his personal emotional baggage: it's all hindsight deliberation. Time continues in its ancient, unperturbed way, and this disheartening case is now part of history.

Yet, there are some points we may want to ponder as we move on.

First: mentality. I recently listened to a speech from Sam Harris, in which he made the assertion that culture reshapes the human brain. He referred to cultures where fathers murder their daughters if these are raped, because they are more concerned with the family’s honor than the wellbeing of their child. There may have been a similar twist in the mindset of the man who drowned himself and his children. He was filled with selfish rage against his wife, thus, he took her children away from her.

Then there’s the attitude of the man’s wife. One might wonder whether she could have tried to tactfully avoid any confrontation with the drunkard. Leaving her children in the car with such a heavy drunk turned out to be a fatal mistake. Yet, we cannot judge since we’re unaware of the circumstances.

There is also the issue of maturity: the man who drowned himself and his kids was only 28 years old. His oldest son was six. Yes, these things are "normal" in certain cultures, but maybe it is time that those cultures come to realize that some men are not mature enough at the tender age of 22 to engage in the responsibility of parenthood. I have yet to find formal research evidence, but I think in psycho-social regards men are generally younger than women of similar age.

Finally, my ever-recurring question: how on earth do we dare to consider human beings more sensitive than animals? As far as I know animals do not rob their children from their most precious gift: their lives.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The gift of making our own choices (and owning up to them)

I read on an Internet news source a few days ago that a man in Afghanistan strangled his wife to death because she had given birth to a daughter for the third time, while he had hoped for a son. As if this unnerving stupidity is not horrendous enough, the man was assisted by his mother in his despicable act! I get so disheartened when I read these things, because it demonstrates that in this "enlightened" day and age, these things are still common practice in our human behavior.

There are three reasons why I am bringing up this distasteful situation: 1. It shows that, despite the global communications and information flows, there are still too many people to which there is no access possible. The question thus arises, how we will ever be able to reach a level where we can provide basic development to all people on the globe. 2. It proves that we continue to suffer from the negative impact of cultural, religious, social, and political doctrines, which still drive many to horrendous and shortsighted acts.3. In a broader sense it emphasizes how easy it is to look out of the window instead of in the mirror when it comes to finding a perpetrator for something we are displeased about.

When, in the case mentioned above, a man cannot even accept that the gender of his baby is determined by his sperm in the first place - which indicates that he should strangle his own neck to begin with - we clearly see how devastating this weak characteristic can be! The example above illustrates a sad behavior of which all of us are guilty at times: we search for a scapegoat for something of which we often know that we are (at least partly) guilty.

And now that we're on the topic: Nothing just randomly happens to us. Everything we experience is a result of the choices we once made. Hence, everything is ultimately our responsibility! To illustrate this statement with the case of strangling husband: even if it would turn out that getting three daughters was to be attributed to the position of his wife's egg, which had caused his male chromosomes not to be able to fertilize it, he was still responsible for choosing to have sex with that particular woman, right? So, even if the argument of an arranged marriage is made, it remains a fact that no man can be forced into having sex if he does not want to? This leads to the conclusion that the man and his wife were therefore both responsible for the pregnancy, and, hence, for the product of that pregnancy.

And then the social conditions: While I feel very sorry for the poor wife's ordeal, I doubt whether she would have reacted any different if she had switched places with her mother-in-law. The problem lies deeper than a marital dispute, and we don't have to be historians or anthropologists to understand that. In several societies men are simply never blamed: certainly not when it comes to baring children. The fact that this way of thinking is still valid in 2012 is extremely disheartening. It remains easier to look out of the window and condemn the specks of sawdust in others' eyes inside of staring in the mirror at the many planks in our own eyes.