Girl Power – International Day of the Girl Child


Last Thursday, October 11th, 2012, was the first UN International Day of the Girl Child.  Nowadays most people agree that one of the keys to the well-being and prosperity of the planet lies in the education, protection and enfranchisement of girls and women.  Unfortunately, most people doesn’t include the parents of millions of girls who are forcibly married off every day.  Or the government of Iran who have recently banned women from 77 university courses.  Or the Taliban in Pakistan who shot 14 year old Malala Yousufzai in the head last Tuesday, October 9th, because she had spoken out in favour of the education of girls and said –

“I have rights.  I have the right of education.  I have the right to play.  I have the right to sing.  I have the right to talk.  I have the right to go to market.  I have the right to speak up.”

Fortunately, more and more girls themselves are beginning to object and because many of these marriages are arranged out of love and concern for the child and a fear of stepping outside tradition rather than any cruel motive, more and more parents are also listening to their daughters.

If you have time today perhaps you’d like to read what Desmond Tutu and Ela Bhatt said about this last Thursday – Today, A Promise to Girls.

Or maybe you’d like to watch this short video about one girl’s stand against marriage – and her family’s surprising reaction –

Or maybe you’d have time to see what Mary Robinson and others have to say about child brides –

If you have a minute you might go onto the Amnesty USA page to send a message of protest about the shooting of Malala Yousafzai.

Even if you haven’t got time to do any of those things maybe you’d just think about the problem of girl brides and talk to others about it so that gradually we can all become aware and support those little girls when they say ‘no’.

Love As Separation


We see love as a coming together.  A uniting.  And that, of course, is true.  As an end result.

But what is the nature of love?  (Don’t worry, I’m not really expecting an answer – yet…)

I’m pretty sure that love isn’t what most of the notions about it flying around in the world describe.  In particular, I’m certain that the idea of love as a process whereby we are completed by somebody else is not only wrong, it’s quite dangerous.

The feeling that we have when we are ‘met’ by someone.  When we are actually seen for who we really are and loved by the person who sees us, is a very potent feeling and one that can delude us into thinking that it is this process that calls us into being in some way. That isn’t true.

We are whole and discrete units unto ourselves.  Nobody outside of us – not our lovers or friends or children or even our parents (and to be honest they might come closest) can fill the gaps or substitute for the parts of ourselves we need to grow in order to be whole. This belief that somewhere there is someone – or indeed something (money, drugs, sex, success) – that can effect our ‘completion’ puts this necessary step out of our own control.

It isn’t only that this approach to love isn’t a nice, modern or independent idea, it’s more that it can’t work.  This approach is more likely to result in an unhealthy hybrid outcome – an entity made from borrowed and mismatched pieces rather than a beautiful and healthy relationship that can function as a powerhouse and engine of change and good and growth for all those involved.

So the first step towards love is separateness.  I have to see my separateness and become who I am and find ways to fill my own lacks and you have to do exactly the same and then we can come together.  Once we are sure we are separate we don’t suffer from jealousy or domination or the need to be in control.

When we are children the situation is complex vis a vis our togetherness and our separateness and just as we are growing physically we are also growing in this way.  We start off being attached, literally, to another person and our journey through childhood is a journey of separation and detachment as well as a myriad other things.

But once we are adults – regardless of the childhood that has created us – we are separate. When we are adults, if a person we love leaves we will be sad, we may even be distraught but we won’t be broken – because we can’t be.  They weren’t completing us – no matter what it felt like.  At best, they were papering over the cracks and that might not be great but when your heart is broken and you’ve been abandoned, one way or another, there is comfort in knowing that whatever else has happened no part of you has been taken away.

Because you have all the parts of yourself.  Even if you can’t always see them.

The job of completion is yours and mine alone.

There’s no denying that it’s a much nicer place when we help each other to do that – and maybe that is love.  Or part of love.  Or a type of love.

Here are a few interesting recent blog posts on various aspects of love that might help us all in our ongoing struggle to find out exactly what this elusive, seductive essence might be.

On Compassion and Control Freaks

Expectations and Vulnerability

I Hate To Tell You this Mom, but… 

Differentiation, Love and Living with Integrity

The Houla Massacre

This last post may seem an unlikely reference given the context, but I think this post graphically describes the lack of love.  It isn’t just that we don’t have chocolates and flowers if we don’t have love – the consequences are much more serious than that.  And sometimes we need to see clearly what something isn’t before we can understand what it is.

There are many, many more posts on this subject that I have read but can’t remember right now –  if you wrote one, or know of one, please don’t hesitate to link (self-referring is positively encouraged!).

Do You Feel The Love?


The first step in changing our world is an examination of what actually constitutes reality. We are all products of our environment and as a result we inevitably take many things for granted, believing them to be the natural order of things.

Social reality is an expression of human agreement, someone is the president of a country and has the powers of that office because a system of government is created and acknowledged by the inhabitants of that country. When the fundamental agreements which frame belief and behaviour change, social reality will change.(1)

In the early twentieth century, Antonio Gramsci, who spent most of his life in one of Mussolini’s prisons, identified a phenomenon he called cultural hegemony. Gramsci used this term to describe how we all believe that the way things are is the natural order of things.

A good example of how cultural hegemony operates is slavery. There was a time in the Western world when slavery was considered ‘the natural order’. Certain people were seen as a slave class and were owned by other people. Social realities, and even the economies of the time, were built around this idea and nobody – even the slaves in all likelihood – thought there was anything that could be done to change it.  Slavery was, in fact, so much part of social reality that wishing to escape from it was seen as an illness.

In 1851, American physician, Samuel A. Cartwright described a mental illness he called drapetomania – an illness he believed afflicted slaves who were inclined to run away. Cartwright said this illness was a result of masters who, “made themselves too familiar with [slaves], treating them as equals.“(2)

He went on to say that,

“If any one or more of them, at any time, are inclined to raise their heads to a level with their master or overseer, humanity and their own good requires that they should be punished until they fall into that submissive state which was intended for them to occupy. They have only to be kept in that state, and treated like children to prevent and cure them from running away.“(3)

It’s now clear to us that slavery is not the natural order of things but rather a social reality based on economic motives and mistaken ideas. People like us made that reality.  And, equally, people like us changed that reality.

So, how do we tell the difference between unchangeable reality which is outside of our control and reality that can be changed? As someone pointed out to me recently not everything is possible.  But what happens if we just accept the limitations (as we see them) and don’t try to change things? If God had wanted us to fly he’d have given us wings…

The question is tricky.  How can we tell the difference between mutable and immutable reality before we begin?  Maybe there is a solution just around the corner which we can’t see from where we stand?  Which seems like a good reason to start out.  And yet it is true that some efforts to effect change will be futile – so, how much banging our heads against the unchangeable can we stand before our heads explode?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, by the way.  Sorry.  But maybe you do.

I have been thinking about it though and all I can come up with is that I wonder if the answer is something to do with love?  Not Hollywood love but real, raw, visceral, never-giving-up love.  The kind of love that parents have for their children.  The kind of love that holds the atoms of a stone together.  Where nothing is too hard or not worth the effort even when the chances of success seem slim.  The kind of love that makes us try and try and try even when we fail and fail and fail – and then when we’ve tried everything possible – we try something else.  Maybe we try the impossible.  Because it matters.

________________________________________________________________________

1) Paul Lample, Revelation and Social Reality, p.9

2)  Cartwright, Samuel A. (1851). “Report on the Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race”DeBow’s ReviewXI.http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h3106t.html. Retrieved 2007-10-04.

3) Arthur L. Caplan, James J. McCartney, and Dominic A. Sisti (2004). Health, Disease, and Illness: Concepts in Medicine. Washington, D.C.:Georgetown University Press. p. 35 ISBN 1589010140.

The Big Picture


It’s all about perspective.

Perspective isn’t just something for art class – it’s essential for understanding.

It’s indispensabile in our quest for truth.

It’s vital for our ongoing safety and security.

And most of all it’s absolutely irreplaceable in the pursuit of personal and societal happiness.

In every sense perspective helps us get the whole picture.

And nothing delivers perspective better than films like this (well, for me anyway)…

How to Be Happy


One of the problems that naturally occurs when a light is shone on pain and suffering is that those who are looking at this picture are overwhelmed by pity.  This might seem like a good outcome – surely if we are sorry for someone we’ll try to help?  Well the answer to that is not a definite ‘yes’.  Sometimes when we feel sorry for people we also feel angry, or resentful or superior or confused.  We wonder how this can happen and why they can’t help themselves just like we have to do and if they have some inherent shortcoming that precludes them from building a wholesome and sustaining life for themselves… Continue reading

Transferable Skills


No matter what you do, if you care enough to use your skills and talents and ideas to make the world a better place, you’ll succeed.

You don’t need to be Mohandas Gandhi or Mother Teresa to effect change in the world.

You just need to be you.

And do whatever it is you do.

Maybe Everything Doesn’t Have to Be So Hard?


As I said.  Maybe everything doesn’t have to be so hard?

Maybe all we need to do is find our natural position in the world and then lean into it?

Maybe that’s what it takes to blossom?

I know that’s easier said than done.  I know it can be hard to feel that what we have, naturally, to give to the world is what the world needs from us the most.

I know that in a world that constantly advertises its vacancies for people who are prettier than we are, or smarter, or thinner, or richer, or faster or fleeter of foot than we’ll ever be, it is hard not to see ourselves as inadequate.  Not to try to be some of those things that the world seems to want us to be.

But maybe you and I are wasting our precious time here trying to become something we aren’t?

Maybe that energy would be better employed working out who exactly we already are and what we can already do and then developing that? No matter what the world thinks?

Have a look at Rory McIlroy in the clip below.  I wonder if those commentators would have seen then, what they see now?

To see things in the seed, that is genius – Lao Tzu

(P.S. – this video is also for my husband and children – bet you never thought I’d use a golf example, guys…)