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…

Teach

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You’d think it would be difficult to find a notion that includes, in various definitions and languages, to lead into vice or bad habits, a token, to watch or guard, and those quite aside from the well-known definition. Turns out it’s not impossible, teaching covers the lot and more 🙂 Sounds a bit strange, when you think about it, but for once I am not interested in etymology.

You see, there is something about the ability to teach that sparks every nerve cell in my body. I love to learn. I mean, I really love it. The worse punishment you could give me as a child was to tell me I could not go to school that day. And that was without even taking teachers into consideration. I was interested in learning but having in front of me someone who actually knew those subjects, oh, my, divinity was simply too little a gift for them! Yeah, well, I was always a bit OTT 🙂

I had a bit of a problem though. Most children learn to please others and I was no exception. Most children move on though as they grow up and they learn for their own sake. I never made that move completely. I could still learn a subject with a bad teacher if it was in my interest but no matter how much I loved that subject or how good I was at it, bad teaching would lead to me giving up that subject.

I sometimes made teachers uncomfortable. I am an impossible pupil unless you are very confident in what you teach. My memory, like so many children of my generation, has been honed over years of rote learning. I stare at teachers for hours on end if allowed trying to absorb everything they can give. I always have a answer and I am quick about it. I am also reasonable with analysis and synthesis. I test teachers to make sure they remember their own words. All in all, perfect for one on one tuition, but horrid in a classroom 🙂

I mentioned once that between people and books, the books almost won. The reason they didn’t is because they are simply not personal enough. Yes, yes, yes, I know that everybody perceives the same book differently, but that is not enough for me. I want to be taught. I want to look at the teaching subject not through the static lens of a book but through the eyes of a person who loves that subject. I am not asking much, am I? 😛

An example is gardening. I have read uncounted books on it and experimented in my garden and the results have been dismal. I am now learning to garden organically and I can’t wait for each class. A subject I love taught by a teacher who loves it… a no brainer, really!

I am also very angry if a teacher is not good. It’s the unfairness of it, you know? Here is a subject that could be taught so well and could change lives in the bargain… and what are you doing with it? How dare you make a hash of it? Horrid pupil, like I said!

Of course I would love to have private tutors for each subject I want to learn (and there are many, as described in yet another blog). Small groups seem to be ok though, so I’ll stick to it.

But what I would actually like is an apprenticeship. Does anyone know a person who’s skilled in herbalism and wouldn’t mind having me as a shadow?

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.