Shield

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For once, this word is not derived from Latin. I know, amazing, right? 🙂

But oh, the meaning! Ah, the meaning! Yes, protection, but actually it means to divide, to separate. So result aside (protection), the intent is to keep the distance. It may seem I am making too much of it, but my infamous defence walls have always been a bit of a struggle for me. Don’t get me wrong, I need them, but the idealist in me rues that need. In my struggle for connection, how could I not regret (note, regret, not resent) the very thing that protects me? The mask, the quick quip, the attack, the logical analysis… so many ways of saying “I do not trust you to take care with my soul” therefore “you stay away, there where I can see you and watch your every move” because the alternative is to get my soul damaged by the same carelessness with which I raise these walls… wait, what?

Hmm, yes, I guess that makes sense, that we all have walls. It comes I think from the loss of innocence which then translates into a certain cynicism regarding people in general, although we do try to define the breadth of that mistrust.

From the Platonic halves to the Babel tower, we have struggled with the separation, with the difference, with the mistrust. We have found ways around the worst of it, too, in enlightment, in agape, in religion. Using them as shields. Unable to overcome the separation, we have built bridges and crossed them when at all possible. We have learnt to accept the separation and, in the course of a normal life, many of us don’t even struggle anymore. After all, what can be the point, when this is how it is, when there is no point to fight, when this is what we are fated for?

We have built our societies around it. We praise the separation and teach our children to respect it. Because, I assume, of death. Which we have demonized as the final separation (although even then we have attempted to build bridges).

Is this, then, the best that we can do? Love, learn, pray, then succumb to death? Build walls so that the words of our loved ones don’t harm too much? Struggle to keep our selves (bodies, but spirits, too) intact because we cannot even contemplate the alternative?

Hey, wait a minute!

Hey, wait a lifetime, you mean! For we are not born with those walls, yet few go out of childhood not having them. Those we call simple, naïve or angels. That innocence, again. I struggle with it.

And yet I am no stranger to the one thing that makes those bridges possible, that looks at separation and, if we but let it, has us trying again and again to cross.

I am talking, of course, of hope.

It is one of those things (like life, and freedom, and learning) that would look mighty strange were it extinguished.

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A comparison?

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My friend suggested a while ago that I write about communism vs capitalism. I decided to do so today, mainly because I have a cold and can’t be bothered thinking about important things 🙂 Because if you think this is going to be an objective article you need to close this page immediately, I don’t do that kind of stuff when I feel miserable and sorry for myself! 🙂

So here goes: I haven’t read anything about communism or capitalism as theories, only as the opinions of people. I also grew up in a communist country until I was almost 11, then spent my teenage years assimilating a different reality and wishing for an even more different one.

I have this theory that ideas are only as good as the people who apply them, not as the people who think them up. I should know, being an idealist. 🙂 As such, I regard both communism and capitalism as failures, insofar as the ideas go. Because by applying them you ignore huge swathes of humanity and that leads, as it should, to misery.

An example, maybe? Doctors – this has been done to death, but still it deserves a mention. Communism – they are people who provide a service, therefore they need to be recompensated in proportion to their needs… come again? They have spent how many years in university, elbow deep in whatever substances people’s bodies manage to scrounge up and you want to pay them how much? The needs of a doctor are, after all, not that much higher than a labourer’s… perhaps a doctor might need to preserve their hearing a bit better so they can auscultate properly. But a bed, a roof over one’s head, food on the table and clothes on one’s back should be enough, huh?

Capitalism – they are people who are providing a service and need to be recompensated according to their skills, but at the same time we can’t let just anybody use these skills, only those who can afford it, the rest are obviously not really integrated in this society!

Simplistic? You bet! But that is what I saw happening, what I have been told by innumerable people time and time again. I saw my people reach for plant medicine not only because it works, but also because sometimes they didn’t have enough money for a bribe. And the USA leads in the other direction with their user-pays system – google the results.

If one ignores the natural urge to compete, you get misery. If one ignores the natural urge to belong to a community, you get misery. And it doesn’t only have to do with the material things. The very people the system is supposed to serve are damaged, sometimes almost beyond repair. Meaning, faith, enlightment, love, what you tell your children when they go on a date, how and what you communicate, what you hope and what you despair of, what you rebel against, the battles you choose and the principles you crush under necessity…ah, but it is enough to break hearts and spirits!

They have advantages, both systems, and I am aware of some of them and have weighed the sacrifices one must make to get them. Between the two systems, if there is no other globe I could travel to, I would grit my teeth and choose capitalism. There is a difference, and it is enough that one can breathe deeply and feel some hope. Because between two extremes, one should aim for the middle… and I believe it is easier to have a capitalist system with social welfare than a communist system with freedom.

Play

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It is commonly known that play is a child’s work. That one should allow for unstructured play. That play is complete in and of itself, without requiring a result, although it may have one anyway.

It is also commonly accepted that in growing up you will “put aside childish things” and acquire the focused, result driven, consequence-tempered approach of the adult. What I have observed is that in our “civilized” world, where we work more than monkeys but are less content than them , where every second of life is held to ransom but we have to wear headphones for music to blast away the boredom of our task, play is making a resurrection in the adult world. The five minutes of wind-gazing while you’re supposed to be working is play. The sexting without expecting an answer is play as well.

Un-needed experiments are also play. Those are my favourites. They are un-needed as I can easily find the results. They are also safe because my survival does not depend on the result. I can then fail. What a novel idea! 🙂 Not that I start with the idea of failing, I am too competitive for that. I start with the idea that I will win. At least I will learn something. If I fail, I can throw away the failure. This is waste and I do not condone it, I just acknowledge my luck that I have enough so I can fail without major consequence.

This seems very strange to other people. I don’t think they always understand why I should even experiment. I also don’t think they understand why I am not very upset when I do fail. In other words, why I play and not take things (life?) seriously enough. They like it only if I get a result that they like as well.

There is gratitude in me that I should have enough raw material so that I may be free to experiment. Like milk, raw, fresh, safe and yummy. Sometimes I get to the end of the week and I have not touched the bucket. Tomorrow I will get another bucket. Hm… seems a waste to pour it as fertilizer for the plants. Right, I guess we could make cheese. I can buy cheese from the supermarket. Yes, that’s true, but why not make it yourself? Ok, let’s make cheese. What sort of cheese? Most of the time I am smart and try an easy/fail-proof recipe. But nice as the result is, the learning is small. So next time I will try something more complicated. Success again, the feeling is better! The next time I will try something even more complicated… drat, I failed! Where did I fail? I followed the recipe religiously! Hm… I guess it was step 2 out of 3 possible. I put the drained cheese to heat up in hot milk. I think I need to put them to heat up together, then the whey might have a chance to actually separate… and then I can make ricotta out of that… brilliant, next time I will succeed!

The result was a bit of rubbery substance, some funny-looking milk, an empty bucket and a heck of a lot of dishes and cloths to wash. Given that I am not a child, I have thrown away the rubbery would-be cheese, I poured the milk as fertilizer and washed and cleared away the evidence myself. Some wasted resources were acknowledged and a lot of learning was integrated. I was happy and did not understand why I was not encouraged to try again. How else would I learn? What do you mean, what is the purpose of that learning? As my beloved Heinlein would say, “specialization is for insects”.

No, I did not need that cheese. Yes, I could have bought it from the supermarket.

I just wanted to play. I could. No one got hurt, abandoned or suffered because I played. So I did.