Blink and you might miss it….

A sunset I nearly missed

I had been busy working, late Sunday afternoon, preparing for Monday’s lessons, when my wife called me.

I wondered out loud and not too pleasantly, what she wanted now. It had been a busy weekend and I was quite grumpy at the thought of another chore. After all weekends are for recharging, not for working harder than you do during the week!

I asked in my most exasperated tone what she wanted. She responded by saying that there was the most beautiful sunset she had ever seen and she wanted us all to come see it. Another sunset? I have witnessed plenty in my lifetime. Surely this could not be any better than the rest?

The kids both went, which in itself was quite surprising as they are usually glued to the sofa, watching something on TV. I eventually relented, moaning and grumbling all the way onto the back verandah, expecting to see a similar sunset to those I had witnessed before.

What awaited me was a site I could not find the words to describe. It was the most spectacular one yet. The mix of colors and contrasts, the pale and the bright, all blended to create what can only be described as perfect!

While it did not do much to improve my mood, I am glad that I didn’t miss it. It made me realize that even in the busiest moments, we must make time to smell the roses or view the sunsets in this case. It is a timely reminder that miracles happen in our lives every day and we often miss them because we are too busy chasing our own tails.

More importantly it was the pause button I needed to reflect and realize that I was not grumpy because I was over working. I was grumpy because I had spent too much time on things that weren’t important to me, things that didn’t align themselves with my personal intentions.

We tire most when we are doing things that are not linked to our higher purpose. These little moments remind us that we are a part of a flowing, changing, growing universe. As unique as each sunset is, so are each one of us. Why then do we waste so much time on things that are not for us?

Take time to witness the miracles thus week. Like everything else in your life, they have a purpose. Have a wonderful week all.

Are we all racist?

Racism is the deliberate discrimination or prejudice against an individual or group based on race or ethnicity.

How would I know if I am a racist? What are the characteristics of a racist? Do I behave in such a manner? If I am a racist, have I been influencing others to behave in a similar manner? Have I, after being exposed to racist behavior, begun acting in a similar manner?

A racist in my opinion, is someone who believes that a person of a different race or ethnicity is inferior in every way and deserving of being treated as such all the time. As an inferior being, these people are always portrayed in a negative light so that the treatment they are exposed to can be justified. Racists use isolated examples as a tool to sell their argument. At every opportunity, the behavior of 1 or 2 people is used to argue the case against an entire race. They are uncompromising in their beliefs and will not change their opinion even when faced with overwhelming proof to the contrary.

Racists are also those who buy into the beliefs of those mentioned above. They do not question the validity or the morality of the belief. Instead they see it as a necassity to fulfill a cause or as a means to an end. These people throughout history have endorsed slavery, colonialism, nationalism and have elected governments who used racism as their election manifesto and even voted to go to war to support their beliefs. They use media houses, social media platforms, television and movie studios to spread their beliefs. These people often fly under the radar, preferring to leet others publicly and openly spread the racist rhetoric.

So where do I fall in this narrative? As a child I grew up during apartheid. I was exposed to a powerful, brutal system that entrenched racial segregation, used subliminal conditioning though television and movies to project one race’s superiority over the rest. A state orchestrated propaganda campaign instilled fear and distrust into each race group about the others. These included but not limited to spreading misinformation to one group by blaming another group for the problems that group was facing, for example telling a poor community that they were poor because another group stole their jobs. With no proof to the contrary this group developed resentment and eventually hatred towards the other as their struggles continued. The aim was to ensure the different groups would distrust each other so much that they would not try to work together end the oppressive regime. While it was not completely successful, the campaign did ensure that a certain portion of each community believed the message and they would not be swayed by what came after. I saw plenty of evidence of this within my own community. A small portion, usually from the less educated would view certain races or ethnicities with fear and hatred, while viewing others as superior and treating them as such. No proof was needed, and no counter argument would be entertained. The repercussions of this would still be seen long after apartheid ended. The mistrust and hatred was passed on from generation to generation and in the absence of education and solutions to poverty, unemployment and inequality, these were easily entrenched.

These beliefs surface whenever there is tension in the land, during the pandemic and governments handling of it, the violence during service delivery protests, xenophobic attacks, poor matric results, and the recent unrest. Opinions are expressed with venom and confidence based on the ingrained beliefs that a portion of us choose as our truth. While the majority of us see the situation for what it is, it is these opinions that dominate social media, political addresses and the media’s coverage.

As long as inequality, poverty, lack of universal access to health care education remain, these beliefs cannot be challenged or changed. It will take alot of work to change opinions and beliefs that are harmful to peaceful and harmonious coexistence. Giving media spotlight and social media platforms to racists needs to end as all it does is add fuel to the fire.

So, am we all racist? No I don’t believe we are. Many of us have been fortunate to have received an education that has helped me to reflect on events, to make sense of them without judging those responsible too harshly and especially not as a result of their race or ethnicity. A crime is committed by a criminal not a race. Poverty leads to desperation, without it much of our problems with petty crime and drug abuse would cease to exist. A lack of universal education and health care gives people little to no hope. The young, poor and sick are left to the mercy of those who will manipulate them their own gain. Unless they are lifted out of their situation, they remain vulnerable to the influence of those who use them as pawns in their quest to control the narrative.

Who are you, really?

How to answer that? Can I define myself? Have I consistently been the same person throughout my almost 50 years on this planet? Or have I inevitably changed over time?

As a young child who I was, was determined by those who raised me, taught me, instructed me or coached me. My parents expected me to be well behaved, hard working, respectful and obedient. My teachers expected me to be disciplined, motivated and dedicated to my studies. My religious leaders expected unquestionable faith and acceptance of the rules as the only way to live a good life. My coaches expected hard work, discipline and a thick skin when faced with a torrent of verbal abuse. All of these expectations influenced who I thought I was or rather who I thought I should be. My mum harbored hope that I would become a priest and for a while I was prepared to fulfill her wish. Other people were not so kind in their labelling of me or my ability. A teacher during my junior primary years labeled me as average and told my parents not to expect too much from me. All these different expectations and labels did impact on who I thought I should be even though I did not always feel that way myself.

As I grew older my own insecurities and beliefs about my place in the world would further impact how I saw myself. Television played a role in my impressionable years and definitely made me question who I was and who I thought I should be. In most movies or series aimed at my age group, kids who were popular were talented (sport, music and dance), intelligent (top of the class) and/or good looking. The rest of the kids were blended into the background. Where would a skinny, dark-skinned, asthmatic fit in this world? Definitely into the background or so I figured. Nobody who looked like me was cast as the story. This was long before J. K. Rowling made a skinny boy with glasses a hero, before I read J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” were the most unlikely little Hobbits save the day. All this left me unsure of where I fitted in the narrative of life and where my boundaries lay. Should I aim to be top of the class, try out for the soccer team or chat up the prettiest girl I knew? Or was that beyond my station in life? Filled with confusion and lack of belief I more often than not chose not to act, believing that it was not meant for me.

Getting accepted at university changed my perspective somewhat as very few boys from my school ever went to university. We were regarded as crude, rough around the edges and generally not good enough for jobs other than factory workers, policemen or members of the navy. I certainly spoke far too much slang, swore like a trooper and lacked nuances reserved for those better educated. Nevertheless here I was shoulder to shoulder with academics and it forced a change in my behavior. I spoke with less of an accent (not wanting to be ridiculed for having one) and due to the very nature of the place, attention to my studies brought the bonuses of understanding, improvement in my grammar and vocabulary and a better sense of how the world actually worked. Did I finally know who I was? Not by a long shot, though there was a notable improvement in my view of myself.

The working world brought new challenges as I encountered those leaders who did everything they could to teach me, those who criticized yet provided no support structure to assist me, a system that was harmful to young educators and the transition from an oppressive system to a more democratic one (with numerous teething problems to boot). It was here that I found that my instincts – which until this point I had generally ignored – began to influence my decision making and how I felt about my place in the world. Whatever challenges (and there were many frustrating ones) came my way, my dedication to the learners in my care must never be in doubt. My conscience began to dictate my actions and for the most part it left me feeling better about myself. The working world though did not influence my life outside work like the clichĂ©s expected. As a young adult, I still enjoyed partying on the weekend and while that did not initially bother me, as I got older it began to knaw at me everytime I went out. Was it because I was meant to behave differently as a professional or was it due to my instincts trying (and failing many times) to push me in a different direction? The more I ignored the inner voice, the louder it became. Eventually I began to listen, and not a moment too soon.

As I began to focus on better use of my time, I met my future wife and our relationship brought with it new challenges on my view of how the world worked and of my place in it. As with any relationship there were challenges and these brought with them changes in my thought patterns, my behavior and my responses. Dating led marriage and the challenge of living with someone. A challenge indeed. Through the rollercoaster I found that many of my perceptions were challenged and my opinions changed. I certainly was not the same man before.

Fatherhood would bring new perspective, new challenges and further refining of my view of myself and my new role. Raising two very different young men required different methods to my own upbringing, expectations of them academically, on the sports field, religiously and letting them grow and develop as individuals, without imposing my own expectations and views onto them. This approach required taking a risk or two – which was different to my approach when I was younger.

As I got older I found that I was happier to try new things, from running comrades to writing a blog and looking to fulfill my purpose. Do any of these define who I am? I don’t think so. I think that who I am has changed over the years, from the timid, shy child, to the defensive, introverted teen, to the educator, husband and father who at times struggled with his self image and how he should play those roles. Each stage brought with it new ways of thinking and doing, and adapting. Listening to my instincts which were refined as I grew and accepted change, allowed me to become a different person at every stage.

Who am I then? I am all those I used to be and I will be somebody new come the next chapter in my life. I am adaptable, curious and willing to learn about the world and who I am. I am a new person every day as the challenge each day brings will change me, refine me and hopefully improve me. Who I am is not permanent, that much I can say is true. Who I could be is yet to be determined. Who I was is only a part of my story.

Who are you then?

When a soul cries

The pain is like torture
unabating, cutting, clawing, deeper and deeper.
Unquenchable, no relief, no cure.
Only darkness, light cannot penetrate.
Every thought, every emotion, every second of time focused only on the everlasting, continous loop of pain.
The cry for relief, for deliverance goes unheard.
Salvation a wishful dream, hope all but abandoned.
This pain must be acknowledged, it must be felt, in all its gut wrenching, seemingly incurable horror.
Love is the only band-aid for a soul that cries....

Why am I so angry?

The events in my country a week ago have filled me with anger. I have not been able to think clearly or focus. Music, well intentioned wishes of goodwill, sport, none of it calmed the raging anger that coursed through me.

It is a long time since I have felt this way. It is not some self-righteous, ego riddled anger. The source of this anger, upon reflection (which took a lot longer than expected) comes from many places. Perhaps this is why I took so long to understand it. Why it took so long to calm down, think and allow those thoughts to flow onto paper. I have found it so easy to let my thoughts flow onto paper in recent years, but the events of this last week has presented a challenge like none other I have faced in recent times. So perhaps some reflection is in order and maybe a solution or two. At the very least, a return to a peaceful inner life.

The inability of the political leaders to provide support, solutions and prevent incidents like these in the first place, frustrates us all. The ruling party with its negotiated setup cannot and will not step on any toes for fear of retaliation from within. The result is that society at large is left without decisive leadership, immediate responses and solutions. It is most visible in the delay in the deployment of security forces and the public disagreements about the nature of the looting and violence. Opposition parties were no better. They offered no solutions, made no comment until the president spoke (and then only to criticize without offering support or solutions) or to stoke the fire by inciting racial violence. This angers me because it makes me feel like we have no leaders who are capable, willing to work for the betterment of all and true public servants. Instead we have those who only toe the party line, offer no leadership, are not decisive but take all the credit when the problems are solved. When citizens began defending their properties, the response was one of criticism which I found to be hypocritical as these politicians are safe in their houses and cars, protected by body guards who’s salaries are paid for by the taxpayer. They are out of touch with the country needs but quick to use the problems they refuse to deal with as excuses whenever there is a crisis, leaving communities to solve them on their own. These communities who’s votes put politicians into power were left to feel abandoned and alone and forced them to pick up the pieces and assist each other as they have had to do every single time.

The next source of anger is the media. I am not ignorant enough to believe that the media is always biased. As a student I was taught that journalism was unbiased and took no sides. The mainstream media seems to have forgotten that focus on a particular angle only. The crisis we faced last week was in the main an insurrection with added elements of poverty, racism, entitlement, political manipulation and hidden agendas. Most South Africans understood this. The media chose to focus on a certain angle only. Racism alive and kicking and practiced by people of all races. That is not likely to change any time soon. Media outlets choosing to focus solely on this angle are deflecting focus on the main cause, and aiding and abetting those behind the insurrection. That is irresponsible and dangerous. They have a responsibility to bring us news without fear or favor, but the reporting of events recently have left most citizens questioning the integrity of most of our media outlets.

Social media platforms have long been asked to moderate and monitor users who used the platform to spread fake news, expunge racist rhetoric, and influence millions with vile, harmful and potentially dangerous misinformation. There has to be a way to block these before they are read by the most impressionable. Not enough is being done to prevent these users from using these platforms to serve one purpose and one purpose only-constant chaos. Added to this is the new craze of posting videos and pictures to gain viewership and thereby popularity. Once again this can and must be prevented. Any post should be filtered before posted. With all the advances we have made in technology, surely more can be done.

The looters themselves are another source of anger. Television and social media footage made it difficult to see them as the poor who had had enough and had chosen to use this opportunity to bring those frustrations to the fore. The poorest people in my country have no access to proper housing, electricity or running water. They are forced to live on informal settlements and resort to begging, work as car guards at shopping centre’s to earn a few cents to feed themselves. The looters had motor vehicles, they stole flat screen televisions, fridges, washing machines and other appliances. Poor people do not waste food, they use it sparingly, making it last as long as possible. The footage we were able to access showed people stuffing their faces into cakes, pouring milk over their feet. Not something poor people would think of doing. No, these were not poor people. Poverty was the excuse given to hide behind a darker agenda.

Profiteers and those who purchased looted items incur the next part of my rage. These people used the crises to benefit personally. From purchasing limited stock in bulk and then selling it back to the desperate public at exorbitant prices, to purchasing stolen items because they could get it at a bargain price. This dishonest and selfish behavior is most likely to exacerbate and already volitle situation and create opportunities for future attempts as there now is a market for it. Brazen advertising on social media is a case in point.

Too many easily influenced people who can be manipulated to performing acts of violence, to believe the lies that their leaders tell them and use the excuse “when in Rome….” to justify joining in the looting, violence, racist rhetoric and cling to archaic praticses and beliefs are the next source of anger. These people are not educated enough and that is not likely to change as they are the weapons of choice for leaders who use instability to further their personal agendas. Needless to say a quality, universal education system is non-negotiable to ensure that this never happens again. The fact that this has yet to become a priority or the main priority speaks volumes.

Thousands of my countrymen and women gave their lives to ensure future generations would reap the benefits of freedom that democracy would bring. It angers me that a few greedy individuals who care nothing for the greater good, create instability to further line their pockets and keep hold of the little power they have by any means necessary. Aided and abetted by friends in government, media and social media, they thrive on disharmony. The saving grace and my source of comfort that has helped me calm down and continue to believe, is the attitude of the majority of people in my country who not only slammed the actions and behaviors of these few, but also worked tirelessly to protect, assist, clean up and work together to end the insurrection. It is in these people that I believe the future of the wonderful land lives. They will be the ones who decide where we go from here. That removes my anger and restored my faith in my country.

Unbreakable

Your smile may seem warm, 
Your words assuring.
You tell me to be calm,
There is no storm brewing.

You say that we are equal,
That our people are protected.
Yet this seems a sequel
To actions we've already rejected.

You ignore our cries
Your lack of care
Lets us see through your lies
And leaves us in despair.

We wait and wait
We hope and we pray.
We hope it's not too late,
We argue and debate.

We watch our lives
Go up in flames
We bring out our guns and knives,
When you tell us you are not to blame.

We look at you as if anew
And finally through you
Our faith in you we will not renew,
You have never been true.

Our communities will rise again
We restart, rebuild, depend.
We protect, we sacrifice, we remain.
We unite, we clean, a strong message we will send.

We reject you lies
You use to hide your crimes.
As the last flame dies.
We look forward better times.

Our hope you cannot claim,
Our faith will not fail
United in our aim,
Towards a better future we set sail.

This is written during a turbulent time in my country, my home province and in the city I call home. The callous actions of a few have had a devastating effect on the rest as we attempt to move forward. The resilience of our people always shines through at times like these and while those above us may have failed us dismally, communities have have united to share, care assist each other. This poem is dedicated to all those amazing people.

Why are relationships so hard?

Relationships are for the most part challenging. From parents and children to siblings. From friends and colleagues to teammates and couples. In fact every interaction between people regardless of how fleeting, can be fraught with challenges. The question is why?

People have been labeled and categorized for a long time now, with introverts, extroverts, overly sensitive, insensitive to name just a few. These labels tell as so much about ourselves. They tell us that we are surrounded unique individuals. They tell us that no two people are exactly alike. This means that no two people will ever be 100% compatible. No two people will ever be perfectly suited to one another. There can be no perfect relationship.

The challenge arises when we seek that perfect relationship. In order to achieve that we try to change the person into that perfect being. We fail to accept that person as they are, with their strengths and flaws. We fail to see and acknowledge our own flaws, fail to see how those who choose to be with us accept those flaws without trying to get us to change into someone else.

We overthink those flaws, those disagreements arising from trying to “correct” those flaws that we end up damaging  those relationships. We change our attitudes and feelings towards them. This, more often than not leads to self-indulgent, destructive behavior (like infidelity) or something more permanent like ending the relationship.

We expect the other person to treat us like we feel we deserve . We expect them to reciprocate everytime we do something for them. The expectations we place on them are often selfish and one-sided. We fail to consider that they might not need what we do or even want we give them. By placing physical, financial or emotional constraints as the means of determining the success or failure of our relationship, we limitations on the relationship, making it easier to end than to grow, develop and sustain.

We can sometimes only focus on certain aspects that attract us to another person (beauty, money etc). By focusing on these alone, we fail to see the other traits in that person (particularly the harmful ones) and it is often too late before we realise our mistakes.

Television, movies, mass media and social media all create unrealistic pressure with fairytales, matches made in heaven and yes even opposites attracting. None of these focus on the work that every relationship needs in order to succeed. There are no shortcuts.and neither is a happy ending guaranteed.

This does not mean that all relationships are salvageable. There are abusive, dominating, cruel people out there and their victims often fall for their charm and other qualities and find themselves trapped, with no way out. Listening to one’s instincts and the trusted opinions of others can prevent a loved one from falling into that trap in the first place.

Is there no hope then? Are all relationships doomed to fail? Not exactly, no. We must first understand that we enter relationships for various reasons. Tradition, family expectations, financial support, physical chemistry, not wanting to be alone in the world, are not the right ones. Entering into a relationship because you feel strongly enough about that person that you want to raise a family with them, enter into a partnership with them, maintaining a friendship with them are all better reasons.

Accepting that these people you are choosing to be a part of your life have strengths, weaknesses, opinions, and values that might be really different to your own and choosing to see these differences as positives that will strengthen your relationship and what you aim to collectively achieve in your relationship.

Being vulnerable enough to let them see your own weaknesses and flaws are another necessary step in building a strong bond. We do not have to be perfect or pretend to have strengths only.

Having no expectations is another helpful coping mechanism. Placing expectations on our partners only leads to disharmony and strain when those expectations are not met. Nobody else can make us happy. Happiness is an individual quest. Others can add to it but cannot be responsible for it. Leaving our happiness in the hands of someone else is one of the most harmful things we can do to ourselves.

Maintaining good relationships is hard work. You could put alot of effort into the relationship by there everytime they need you, checking in on them regularly and sending them positive thoughts and messages daily, and in response your receive nothing remotely close in return. If this relationship means that much to you, you would need to focus on why you do what you do and try to understand why they respond differently. Their personality, work load, outlook on life may make it difficult to reciprocate.

Understanding the difference in another, accepting that that is who they are but believing that they are worth it, is a positive step in sustain and developing a relationship.

In short, accepting people as they are, understanding that we are all different and that is a strength, allowing oneself to be vulnerable so that the other person can see one’s weaknesses and working hard together at the relationship can ensure a less difficult relationship. There is no guarantee that there won’t be conflict but these steps should help solve the conflict in most cases.

Finally, acknowledging that every relationship is temporary, might allow us to focus on the present and the gift this relationship brings now, without trying to chase our happily ever after.

Those momentary indiscretions

Every lent since I was a teenager, I have abstained from something. As a youngster it was usually read meat and chicken, which was what we stopped eating for the 40 or so days between ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. It was a tradition which I never questioned and when I was asked as an 18 year old as to why we abstained, I responded that it was a form of penance – saying sorry for all our indiscretions.

As I got older it became less about the penance and more of a habit, and thus began to lose its significance for me. Surprisingly (due to my lack of maturity in so many areas of my life at the time) I reflected on this and decided to abstain from things that I actually enjoyed. The choices were alcohol and cigarettes. The former was never an issue as I did not consume alcohol regularly. The latter would be a challenge as I was addicted to nicotine. This was a real challenge and one that I would go on to overcome. So much so that I would eventually stop smoking altogether. Once again some reflection was required.

The next decision was to focus on certain behaviors that was less than savory. I grew up in an area and at a time when vulgarity was frowned upon, so naturally like most of my peers I knew all the most choice swear words. As I got older and perhaps better educated I used them less frequently, though perhaps close to, or slightly above the average that a person would (I am being quite generous to myself here). Upon reflection though I realized that I know only used them when angry. I was never the most temperamental person so I could pinpoint when I was most likely to swear. The main arena it turned out was in rush hour traffic.

I do try to be that calm, helpful motorist, who gives others an opportunity to switch lanes in front of me, keep to the speed limit and follow the rules. However I am easily irked by those who blatantly disregard the rules and the safety of other road users and it is usually to these that I reserve my choicest swear words! The problem is that once I let loose I find my blood pressure rise, my mood change and if I could I would probably turn red in the face and have smoke coming out my ears!

This behavior while having little impact on the errant motorist would (if I allowed myself too much time thinking about it) ruin my mood and my attitude for the better part of the day. While this may have been something minor, it made me realize that like all habits, the more I dwelt on it the more I believed it to be true. I would shape my opinion of that person based on one incident and the longer I thought about it the more I could justify my opinion. How often had I done that to other people in other arenas of my life? Family, colleagues, opponents or team members on the sports field? Truth be told, it happened in every arena. This behavior had the potential to seriously impact on all relationships. One negative encounter, an argument, a criticism, a slight on one’s performance, while all part and parcel of life can become a source of tension and change in the nature of a relationship if we choose to focus on one aspect of the whole event. Overthink that one aspect long enough and we can completely change from like to dislike, from love to hate.

Perhaps it was worth trying to control my responses and my thoughts. At first for the lenten period and hopefully develop a habit for the long term. Of course this would not be easy, and I would slip up every now and again. That’s what it means to be human. While we can strive for perfection, it will because of our very nature, remain tantalizingly just out of reach. This does beg the question though, if I am going to slip up anyway, why bother trying to control it at all?

The minor indiscretions, whatever they may be, when dwelt upon for a long time can and usually do change out perceptions of other people. They can seriously impact our relationship with others and harm our health – physically and psychologically – in the long run. Learning to control ourselves and particularly our thoughts under even the most trivial of circumstances, benefits our relationship with others and more importantly with ourselves.

After all it is only our own conscience we have to answer to. Since our relationship with ourselves is the longest we will ever have, we can choose to listen to that conscience or be tortured by it.

To think or not to think?

Sitting in church a few weeks ago I reflected on what it meant to truly follow a religion that I had followed inconsistently for close to fifty years. What would it take to come into church on a particular weekend and not have to feel guilty and seek forgiveness for my transgressions during the week that had passed?

The essence of every religion I would venture to say would be love. To live a life of love for all. To love enough to look past the imperfections we see in others and to love our own imperfections. Sounds simple really. The reality though is that we complicate it through our thoughts.

If I am to love everyone, it means that I must love or use love in my encounters with those who don’t like me, criticize me, bully me, ignore me, do not love me back, treat me with malice and disdain or hate me for being male, dark-skinned, Christian, talented, not talented enough, educated, not educated enough or any other reason from a multiplicity of reasons people choose to dislike or negatively judge me. Not that I have been above doing that myself.

When I encountered negativity the almost obsessive response was to dwell on the experience, and self-righteous judgement of the person responsible for treating me badly. Whether it was a friend who did not respond to my act of kindness as I expected, or a colleague’s response to something I achieved, my spouse’s critical analysis of some task I had painstakingly completed, or a family member’s lack of acknowledgement of some talent or achievement.

These encounters made it difficult to respond from a position of love as it was far easier to judge and justify my judgement to appease my ego. The more I thought about it the deeper my resentment grew. Eventually I could recall those moments whenever a new slight occurred and further entrenched my desired opinion of these people. It made it easier to recall the negative encounters, mistrust the positive and on the whole develop a dislike that could always be justified based on past experiences.

How then would I be able to repair these relationships or at the very least respond from a position as close to love as possible? To believe that like me everyone around me has lived through both positive and negative experiences, been exposed to certain values, have allowed certain behaviors, biases and traditions to become entrenched, thus creating the view of the world that is responsible for the way they see, think and respond to every experience. Given that there an infinite number of all the above factors, it makes every person’s experience a unique one. Understanding this and accepting it as true allows us to acknowledge each other as flawed creations who are simply trying to make sense of our own experience of this thing called life. Armed with this knowledge we may find it easier to focus on each experience as is without dwelling too much on the positive or negative. Acknowledging the uniqueness of our individual experiences, allows us to accept that each person experiences everything from their own personal perspective and this does not make make them only good or only bad but a fraction of each of these, when added together makes a unique whole.

By looking at our encounters with each other from this perspective, we are able to accept that our friend may not respond in the same way we would because their make up is different to ours, our colleague’s perceived envy and dislike is based on what they see, our spouse’s criticism is based on past experiences of their own and the family member’s lack of acknowledgement is based on personal history of not receiving the same acknowledgement in their own lives. Attempting to understand possible reasons for their behavior makes it easier to accept the responses or lack thereof as nothing personal but rather based on their own experiences,on their unique view of reality.

Choosing a position of love means controlling out thoughts about each encounter. It means letting each encounter be just that, a temporary encounter. We place far too much importance on these temporary experiences, allowing our thoughts to develop a love or hatred for each other based on that which really is not life changing.

The truth is that we have far too many things to focus on in the present to focus on past experiences. That however is a topic for another day. To answer my own question then, thinking is an important skill but we waste it when using it to focus on things we cannot change or control. To even attempt to is a pointless, fruitless and even harmful practice.