Knowing and Understanding your True Self

To truly understand yourself and know yourself requires you to go back to see who you were and how you became the person you are today. That means revisiting your childhood and both the good and bad memories. These are the subconscious acts that have created and developed the person you have become. When you are able to accept what mistakes you have made, things that in hindsight seemed like a good idea at the time and know these have contributed to what you have become, then you begin to know who you are. Even those with a tragic and sad childhood, you learn from it; how not to treat others and how to survive. It can make you stronger, cynical at times and even resentful of others with a more comfortable upbringing, but as an adult you have the choice to change that and the foundations of your childhood are a reflection of how you develop.

Many of us would prefer to forget certain things in the past; the bad haircuts, poor choice of girl or boyfriend, fibbing to parents, or copying someone’s homework, but we learn what is right and wrong and how it makes us feel. I call them character-building experiences where you are out of your comfort zone and you find you can cope and survive. I’m not a natural at camping, but I thought I could cope and it was harder than I imagined. Somehow I struggled through and cursed each night as I attempted to sleep in a tent, afraid the leeches outside would get me. After a lot of whining and support from the others on the trip, including my very patient guide (who became a good friend and still is) I learned that I am stronger than I thought and also know what suits me and what I should avoid if possible. We can’t all be good at everything; that’s being human and understanding others maybe better at certain things than you, but that it doesn’t make them better as a person or you lesser as one.

I recently looked at some old childhood photos. Some I remember being taken, how I felt and the occasion. Our childhood is where we are  our true authentic selves with little influence and our real personalities show through. I was a serious child, but I could still see some elements of playfulness and joy, yet I was curious and stubborn. Most photos were taken at Christmas or family trips to the beach; back then I loved books, cooking and stuffed toys. I still like my books and cooking, but still have the soft toys in my parent’s attic as a reminder of my childhood innocence. I mean, who would want them anyway if I gave them away? They were my childhood friends and were part of my life and as long as I have room, then there is no harm. It’s amazing how uncomplicated a child’s life is compared to an adult even though an adult has more control. Its control as adults we need to regain, because then you are being true to yourself then you who you really are.

If you don’t know who you really are, how can anyone else be expected to understand you? Do you like what you see? If not, then you can change it, because you need to like yourself before you can get to know the real you.

Knowing Right from Wrong

Most of us learn the unspoken moral code of what is right and wrong in society growing up, but recently I have noticed that people are bending those rules and the generation that is emerging is ignoring them altogether. They may know it’s wrong and still chance it, for example the American tourists (with a guide) who got caught carving their initials into the Colosseum in Rome and got arrested. Of course they knew it was wrong, but didn’t think they would get caught.

Another example are the arrogant folk that tell you are wrong when there is no evidence to prove that except in their ego. I often encounter such people and while I love a good debate, I choose not to waste my breath (or time typing) on narrow-minded egos. Even when someone is wrong, unless it is dangerous, I realize people need to find out certain things alone and it’s not my place to tell them, unless they ask for an opinion. That means sometimes watching them fall; harsh you may say, but if you try to protect a child from falling, how will they know what to do when you are not there when they do fall?

There is never a blanket solution for everyone, what is right for one maybe wrong for another. Perhaps someone isn’t ready to listen to a certain point of view or is able to understand it yet? I take the approach to keep an open mind about why people think as they do and respect where those beliefs come from.

I sometimes look at forums with philosophical debates, only to find people telling each other (and me) that I am wrong or right. I don’t need anyone to tell me either, because it’s individual. What’s right for me won’t be right for another, but sharing thoughts and theories is what philosophy and spiritualism is supposed to be about. Instead, it becomes a competition to see who thinks someone is right or wrong followed by a lecture from several egos. If someone has a questionable theory, I ask how they came about it rather than tell them they are wrong, because to them that might be the only truth they are able to see.

The only person who you should listen to is you, because you know yourself and what is best for you and what isn’t.

Revenge: A justified act?

What is justice these days and is society just? Who decides what is just? The imbalance in the justice system has led to people seeking revenge; justice as they see fit and what is deemed right.

It may seem to be moral, a father who kills someone who murders his child, but is it just? Some would say that’s real justice, however justice is when society decides and convicts someone of a wrongdoing and they either accept the decision of those who represent society or request an appeal. However, the justice system is subject to corruption from police officers forcing false confessions, withholding evidence and lawyers eager to make a plea bargain to lighten their workload.

An effective and moral justice system may prevent acts of revenge and society could begin to have faith in the justice system. It’s not foolproof and as society evolves, so does the definition and boundaries of justice. All these and more contribute to a justice system in decline, hence why some feel the need to take matters of moral laws into their own hands. While that feeling may arise in many, when someone is acquitted or found not guilty due to lack of evidence, do they have a right to seek their own form of justice? We, as humans abide by the laws set in each country that is how a civilized society functions, so we cannot take the law and reinterpret to our needs.

I do believe in the law of Karma. It’s not something you can predict and can take longer than the legal system and in some cases it maybe quicker than the system. Revenge is best kept as a thought, an emotional reaction to a wrongdoing, because to act on it renders one no better than the perpetrator. True justice will find its way, as long as you trust and believe and have faith.

Dead Poets Society: A film about life and integrity

I first saw this film when it came out in 1989, when I was about the same age of the main protagonist, Neil Perry. It was responsible for the reemergence of the quote, ‘Carpe Diem’, but for me it’s more about seizing the day—the film showed me that standing up for what is right is important for your soul and your integrity. These are traits that define you as you grow older and allow you to respect yourself, even when others cannot see things from your view.

John Keating, the liberal English teacher at a boarding school, portrayed by the late great Robin Williams epitomizes the journey of life, where one discovers creativity and defies the traditional school of thought. Like all good teachers and philosophers he teaches his students to think and not only the facts; something many teachers fail to do today as their own teachers did not take the time to teach them to think. Keating’s unique teaching methods encourages the students to think and see outside the box and also to break some school rules; it challenges loyalties among peers and betrayals from the weak. Trust is earned and gained and some pupils such as Dalton never betrays his friends or his teacher despite the consequences, unlike Meeks who doesn’t hesitate to protect himself.

The pivotal moment is when Perry, played brilliantly by Robert Sean Leonard, decides to follow his passion for acting, but knows he must hide it from his family who would disapprove. His plight, atypical of many ambitious families who decide the lives of their child, that do not listen to what the child wants, recognize their abilities or their individual personality. Despite trying to reason with his father, he feels he can only turn to Keating with whom he has a bond with and is someone who understands him, is willing to listen and also respects him. Teachers such as Keating are rare these days, but it is often the parent who barely knows their own child still to this day.

The recurring themes of loyalty, family values and society expectations are viewed through each character and how they react and develop. The result is that Perry’s parents failed to understand their son and his needs and the loss of his life inspires his former roommate, Todd Anderson, played by Ethan Hawke to stand up for himself, for his own self-esteem and to do the right thing. Failing to stand up to his parents and signing a a false statement, he eventually finds the courage to lead his classmates in standing on his desk and declaring, “O Captain! My Captain!to Keating as he leaves. By standing on a desk, you can see life from a different perspective, which many of us fail to do and the mantra, “make your lives extraordinary” rings loud, because you are entitled to live your life how you wish, not one to make others happy. This is a poignant moment in the film where a teacher can touch a life and change it by sowing the seeds of strength and made a difference.

The film provokes many deep thoughts about how you choose to react; that some rules are there to be broken, because they need to change for society to develop. Are you brave enough to challenge the unspoken rules? Sometimes we have to; I challenged my college’s policy on writing references and told my Vice-Principal (in a very direct manner) that their policy was ineffective and unfair. I wasn’t suspended, but I did write a letter of apology and they did agree the policy did not serve the best interests of the students and it was changed, for me at least. Living your life with the courage of your convictions can lead to change and sometimes there will be consequences, but that is the challenge, called life.

Obstacles or challenges?

I’ve hit some major roadworks on the Yellow Brick Road, not totally unexpected but nethertheless, do I view them as a challenge or an obstacle? We all have obstacles and once we overcome them, we can see them as challenges. I do despair, having had more obstacles and challenges than a Marine and S.A.S assault course put together. Apparently I did ask for them once upon a time and you get what you ask for. I’m figuring out if I can unask some of them, but there has been no reply to date.

To the optimist, things will never appear to be an obstacle, however I am a realist and obstacles do happen. Why? Maybe we need to slow down, or the way we are going isn’t the best direction and it’s a hint to go another way? Or quite simply we’re at a crossroad and confused.

Regardless when you’re on a journey you are prepared as much as you can be for these eventualities, but are you emotionally? I don’t think we as humans can ever prepare ourselves emotionally for all events as much as we think we can. This is part of life’s lessons; to dig deep and experience pain and how to deal with it. Honestly, it’s not fun and who wants this experience? Yet once we have, we know what to expect and how to cope or at least have an idea. It’s not something a book can tell you what to do, even those self-help books, because we all react differently and have varying thresholds of pain and acceptance.

Most of us will become more resilient, cautious, wary and at times melancholy. I see it as normal and wise, because it is a fool that does not see what is really there and the wise accept what is there and deal with and overcome the obstacles, because Life in itself is the biggest challenge.

Respect and Manners

The days of sending a letter to The Editor are a distant memory as each online story or site has a comments section or a forum to discuss and express your opinions.

At times I find it interesting to see the local view on a news story, then horrified at some of the racist, narrow mined or abusive comments people make. I believe in free speech, but also if you can’t say it to someone’s face then hiding behind a computer screen is simply cowardly.

I find Yahoo the worst and they never seem to moderate their comments, it would cost too much, but the site has a reputation for inaccurate stories and the fact people know the comments aren’t always monitored opens it up for abuse. Newspaper sites tend to be monitored and inappropriate posts removed. Then there are trolls, on forums and in chat rooms. I wonder why people do it? Have they nothing better to do with their time and I am a firm believer of what you put out there you will get back. So writing abusive comments will come back on you at some point.

I contribute to some forums and comments when I feel the need, but many get lost in a sea of rantings and spam. One thing it does allow is for people to open up and to express themselves, however, I am thinking a private journal may be more apt for some of the things I read.

People should respect each others opinions and I do like to see what others think; some are experiences that make me think and others allow me to realize there maybe more ignorant people out there with no manners or respect for humanity. The internet has created a platform for all to voice their opinions, though I think there are some that are harmful and should be kept under wraps. The problem is people do not take responsibility for their actions or behavior, online or in person. Each person has a responsibility not to harm others, physically, mentally or verbally. These are the unspoken laws of nature and humanity, ones that people ignore or forget.

 

Homelessness: An unnecessary evil or fate?

Work maybe a necessary evil, but homelessness is one that should not exist, yet after centuries it remains a dark side of human society. There are empty buildings that could keep people warm and so much food is wasted, yet is destroyed in fear that someone may sue for food poisoning. These are basics every human should have a right to and the solutions exist, however, laws prevent them from being actioned or is it apathy? At Christmas we see more charity towards the homeless as many die in the cold, but this is not a seasonal issue, but one society refuses to address in this globalized and materialistic world.

In the Victorian era many people were homeless, they had the workhouses and the churches to help those that were homeless and needed poor relief and alms. Today, we have social welfare that is supposed to help people get off the street and stay off the streets. The stigma of being homeless survives in this modern world of globalization, where money is given to wars and Third world countries that don’t invest in their own people. How is that right?

In Florida, USA, they segregate the homeless where a recent case of a volunteer and priests were arrested for handing out meals to the homeless on a beach. The state wanted to keep the homeless out of sight, by regulating where free meals could be distributed. They are already stigmatized and are further humiliated by being forced to receive aid under certain conditions dictated by the authorities to ‘hide’ the embarrassment of the homeless to the tourists.

In the Silicon Valley, one the homeless camps nicknamed, ‘The Jungle’ has been destroyed and all residents told to move or to be arrested. The area is one of the most affluent in the USA and again is an embarrassment to the authorities. The fact is, homeless exists, but it doesn’t have to.

I had a debate with someone who claimed people choose to be homeless, as they don’t want the responsibility of bills and a job. There maybe a few like that, but people don’t choose to sleep on a bench or on the ground open to attack in the cold. Some have no choice; they have lost their home, they are running away from abuse or perhaps a parent or partner has forced them leave.

Having no home or a place to be is unsettling and it’s hard to get yourself back on your feet. It doesn’t matter how educated you are or even famous, several celebrities have found themselves homeless after losing all their money. Many are runaway children either thrown out by parents or escaping abuse, others maybe be drug addicts or alcoholics that have lost everything due to their addiction or war veterans who can’t find a job and are left on the streets to survive.

How do I know? I worked one Christmas on a project to help the homeless, I worked six days and met many ‘guests’ and people who used to be ‘guests’ and who had managed to get their life back on track. I ran a shelter with Bob, he used to be homeless after he left prison and told me his experiences. I was humbled and was never scared to be with him and learned we can never judge someone by how they look. Among some of the ‘guests’ I talked with were divorced men who lost everything and people who admitted they had made mistakes and wanted another chance at life. Homelessness can happen to anyone. It happened to me.

There are the hidden homeless, those who couch surf and live hand to mouth, relying on the kindness of friends. It’s not a choice, but we do make mistakes, as we are human. Having a roof over your head and food is a basic human necessity. When I did get my own place, I have always like Dr. Barnardo made sure that my sofa or floor with a sleeping bag was available to any friends who needed it. Even if the timing wasn’t the best, I have been there and a small inconvenience is nothing compared to what someone who is homeless goes through mentally and physically.

People try to avoid the homeless in the street, but they are humans, part of society. There are some con artists too, so generally I will buy a meal deal, sandwich, pie and a drink for them so they will have at least one hot meal a day if I can. I can’t say how many months in my life I have survived on peanut butter sandwiches and a pot of ramen noodles, but homelessness should be extinct, but this social crime is allowed to persist and I hope one day it will be eradicated forever.