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.

Resilience

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Sometimes we need to stop. Sometimes we need to distance ourselves from a path that is no longer ours. Sometimes we need to look across time and recognize habits for what they are: comfortable, soothing, but ultimately the past.

Then we are ready. Not necessarily to change then and there, but to allow ourselves to contemplate change as a possibility, not a disaster. The opening of the mind may have happened before, but I think we realize that the mind is not nearly enough for change. The heart has to be involved, otherwise we are stuck between the old and the new with no way to go back but also no way to go forward. Because our hearts aren’t in it.

For a species who recognizes we do not like change we are terribly good at inflicting change on ourselves. It becomes a criteria desirable for any employment. 🙂 Although I would argue that even the best of us at change are really the best of us at dealing with the fall-out of change. In other words, we still suck at change but we can roll with the punches better and, in some cases, learn to love the stress response. Adrenaline junkies, anybody?

Resilience is the word of the day. That quality that sits so uncomfortably between stubborness and aspiration, that moulting of the stress that allows us to grow. It’s the recoil of the decision-making, otherwise known as consequence. It’s the forward leap using the momentum of the push back.

I was pondering resilience because I am now better at recognizing it in myself and others. I had this feeling when I was young that time will help with something. That I am going to step into my power and wield it as I should. I am not sure I was thinking of any magic, although… well, there is a part of me that feels ancient. Permanent. But that is for another time.

I take myself for granted. In translation, I know I can count on myself: my body, my mind, my feelings, my principles. In part, this is because I left childhood behind me. I take life seriously and words even more so (I don’t have “boys” and “girls” in my circle of friends). I can face a situation and determine my response without generalizing.

I am resilient. There is no boasting in it, although you will find some pride, as usual. I would boast if I had worked at it and succeeded. Instead, I was, as usual, lucky. I was given enough hard stuff to gain resilience, but not enough to warp me out of all recognition. But I had so few of the risk factors that it seemed almost inevitable that I would gain resilience. No, I am not saying that people who have risk factors can’t gain resilience. It’s just that they have to work at it whereas I… I only became aware I am resilient because I paid attention. Because I had a mirror close by. This mirror, the little one, is only now learning about resilience.

I used to wonder if we can learn resilience. It seemed to my young eyes something that you either have or don’t. But in this mirror of mine I can see the learning taking place. Because I can offer comfort and touch. Because I am there to discuss possible responses to everyday upsets. Because I can explain complexity (pacifism and patriotism being yesterday’s discussion) thus allowing understanding to grow.

But mostly because I stop and pay attention and respond with love. Time alone will tell if this way is better than throwing the little one into the water with no swimming skills.

I have hope…

Brain

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Storms are supposed to be rare events in the year. They are not anymore. It does not seem quite so fanciful, after the 10th storm of the summer, to believe that the entire planet has decided that humans are better off kept inside, where they cannot do so much damage. It is, of course, ironic that humans can and do make more damage when they are inside and not in direct contact with nature. It is inside that we seem to forget just how small a piece of nature we actually are. It is inside our cities, our houses, our minds that we believe ourselves stronger than nature.

This is, it seems, how we grow up. It is nurture (for want of a better word) that makes us forget nature. It is our brain, our big, biased, besotted brain that makes us forget ourselves. We are against nature even when we pay it a compliment, for we separate it from ourselves.

Brains are terribly good at doing what they are supposed to do, provided we don’t try to override the rules. Which we do, children of our age as we are. Then, the brain becomes a terrible thing of beautifully articulated destruction.

I get quite passively misanthropic at this stage, usually because I tend to use the brain in the human way and of course there is no hope. Of course there is no way to return to an idealistic and idealized noble savage existence. Of course there is no hope for humanity. How can there be, when I can see and follow the news and read between the lines in serious articles about the desperate state of – insert any subject you can think of here – and it is clear to any logical brain that hope is futile. Resistance is futile. Life itself (as far as humans are concerned) is futile – pun not intended and of quite bad taste, wouldn’t you say?

And yet hope remains, quite aside from the futility that is evident. For truly we are not meant for a life of leisure, it is terrible for our health. 🙂 When all the avenues are closed (by ourselves, of course!) our brain remembers defiance. When one cannot succeed, one eventually finds out (and grumbles about) someone else has an idea that will work. When alone we despair we find that we can sing in unison.

Even more idealistic, do you think? And yet I have seen it, time and again. The best movies we watch are about this – you know the ones I am talking about. The books we read and re-read year after year all talk about this. The revolutions that sweep through nations are all about this.

The reason hope was shut within Pandora’s box (urn, whatever) is because most of the time it is a torment for the brain. It doesn’t allow it to just gorge on sugar and infer stupidity out of mere annoyance. It pushes and prods and chases away all logic. For what is logic other than a tool, and how true that once you have a hammer everything around you seems to become a nail?

The wrench, however, is just near the plier….

Change

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Mmm, interesting, this one… yes, the French and the Latin have had a go but it is probably derived from Celtic and it seemed to be back then “all about the money, all about the dum-dum-dum-de-de-dum”. Sorry, could not resist the song 🙂

Change also makes our lives interesting, and that’s probably the understatement of the year! For a species so loudly proclaimed as adverse to change, we seem to inflict a heck of a lot of it on ourselves! Note – we are also adaptable as a species, but that in no way cancels out the above – apples and oranges, you know?

I was thinking about changes lately, both from the challenge and the loss perspectives.

A change is a challenge mostly when you initiate it yourself, or when the result of the change leaves you… still you. So, ironically, a change is a challenge when you remain unchanged. You may change your country, your job, your house. As long as those changes are of your own accord, or irrelevant to your person (open plan office? Hot-desking? Technology updates? ) you grumble, mumble, rumble and get on with it.

A change is a loss when it is done to you, without your accord or with a result that leaves you diferent. Our individuality does not take this kindly, if at all. Death, separation, illness, natural or man-made disaster…. the list goes on. You may, in time, accept these changes, but you are not the same person as you were before the change, and we mourn this probably more than the actual change.

Change as loss is insidious and cunning, pervasive and disabling, annoying and startling. It is a digging and quarrying of the soul until nothing clean or whole exists and every bit of you is disjointedly propping up crumbling walls of the self, with the result of us limping fearfully through the same life we may have embraced before.

We may associate this type of change with loss of youth or innocence. We cannot unsee, unfeel, undo our experiences. We can, sometimes, traumatically forget and yet that isn’t an “unchange” so we reject it. But after the bewilderment and the anger and the grief, we prove our adaptability and we take the minutes and the days and the years onto this other path that is laid out inf ront of us.

We are brave, you know? We are brave exactly when it matters, in the dead of the night, when the seconds are unwillingly counted in breaths. And from the twisting and warping of who we were then, the bonsai understands, accepts, and tries its darnedest to protect the young, straight, tall sapling growing nearby.

I can but hope…

Hope

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Between possibility and reality several concepts shoulder and elbow each other, trying to maintain a continuum, it seems. I have written about expectation, but its sister, hope, knocked on the door as well. Is there a difference? Are they one and the same? Twins maybe? They are both in the waiting period, both of them concerned with a future and a belief… and yet to my eyes they are not of the same realm.

Looks like expectation is formed objectively (even when unrealistic) from our interactions with the others (family, society), while hope is subjective, linked more to our resilience and optimism rather than the choices we face.

And I think we can agree that our hopes and expectations can sometimes be miles apart. Like my younger self realized, when she was supposed to study for university entrance but a pair of blue eyes were somehow more compelling… 🙂

Hope is not always portrayed as positive. Just thinking about Pandora’s box (jar, really!) is quite depressing, notwithstanding her journey from Earth mother to deceiver. Does hope really help, or does it prolong the torment? Norse mythology goes even further and doesn’t even pretend to look at hope as good.

Yet without hope resilience is just a bad joke, the future is random and, let’s face it, the human’s reproduction imperative isn’t nearly on par with other species. But hope, aside from being considered one of the three great virtues, is also stubborn and active. For good or for bad, people have realized that the future is coming towards them like a freight train anyway, so you might as well come on board and check what’s at the next station. It is that realization, combined with a certain talent for manipulating reality, plus a huge degree of consideration for one’s comfort that make hope a fearsome motivator.

Because, let’s face it, it is not with real life details that hope is necessarily concerned. Sure, we can hope for good weather to dry out our clothes, and we can hope for a pay rise to deal with the credit cards, and we can hope to make a good impression on our first date.

But hope has bigger fish to catch, and this comes with a price to pay, in introspection and religion, meditation and principles. We will all die, as we know even without having to think carefully about it. But the death of the body doesn’t scare us nearly as much as it is portrayed (looking at embalming procedures over the centuries, I might have to eat my words!). Beyond reality, beyond knowledge, beyond even belief, hope is humanity’s way to stand up against the annihilation of the spirit.

This, our pride cannot concede.