Problem Solved. Path Revealed.

Beauty.  Brilliance.  Marvelling at life.  Positivity.  Being oneself. Cherishing small things.  Calmness.  Inner Peace.  Merriment.  Kind smiles.  Loving kindness.  Compassion.  Courage to listen to inner truth.  Cannot be embarrassed.  Intelligent bravery.  Useful service.  Affirming love.  Inspirational creativity.  Unrelenting faithfulness. Mirth. Work.  Thoughtfulness.

This is a list complied from your comments on the qualities you admire.



Photograph – The trail of NASA’s space shuttle Discovery creates a bright arc in the sky over Florida following a successful night launch on August 28, 2009.

Peace on Earth – Heart to Heart

The heart is like a box, and language is the key.* 

Photograph – Neighbourhood Children of the Neptune Road-Lovell Street Area – 1973 – Michael Philip Manheim – U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: 412-DA-6813

*’Abdu’l-Bahá The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 60-61

God couldn’t be everywhere…

Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Madres de Plaza ...

God couldn’t be everywhere, so He created mothers – or so the Jewish proverb goes.

Mothers like, Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo – The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo – the Mothers of the Disappeared – a famous, emblematic group of women in white headscarves.

Butterfly Effects For Change – Part 9:

God’s Assistants

They came in their hundreds, marching around the main square of Buenos Aires, demanding that the military government of the time – 1976-83 –  tell them the fate of their children – Argentina’s estimate 30,000 Desparecidos.

In desperation, these women had searched for information  – knocking on doors, going from government office to government office, begging and pleading with the authorities to tell them where their sons and daughters had been taken. To no avail.

These sad, desperate visits were fruitless insofar as the authorities never helped the women to find their missing sons and daughters. However, they did bear a very different – and powerful  –  fruit. As the women trailed wearily in search of their children, they may have met with silence and opposition from the government but they also met each other.

On April 30th, 1977, fourteen mothers went to the Plaza de Mayo, across from Government House to publicize their predicament.   This demonstration took great courage as many of their children had disappeared for lesser ‘crimes’.  These women went to the Plaza to publicize the issue of the thousands of missing Argentinians. Everybody else – including the media – was afraid to speak up.

And I’m sure these women were afraid – but they spoke up anyway.

They collected in the Plaza around the Pirámide de Mayo – the oldest national monument in Buenos Aires and a symbol of liberty. However, as the military government had forbidden groups of more than three people to stand in one place, the mothers were told they couldn’t stand there, which is why they began their silent – and evocative – processions around the Plaza.

Soon these 14 mothers were joined by others, until every Thursday between 3.30 and 4.00pm, hundreds of people – men as well as women – walked silently around this square in Buenos Aires protesting the disappearance of their children. To identify themselves, the mothers wore white headscarves emblazoned with the names of their missing children and carried placards with their photographs.

This moving and non-violent protest captured imaginations across Argentina – and even outside –  as similar ‘mothers’ groups took to the streets, inspired by the actions of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

Eventually the military regime was replaced, but in Argentina – and indeed throughout the world – the memory of heartbroken mothers with placards bearing the photographs of their disappeared children, endures.

It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.  (Aung San Suu Kyi, 1990) 


Image by willposh via Flickr


Chris Abani

Chris Abani

The Nigerian writer, Chris Abani describes the African philosophical concept of Ubuntu as, “…the only way for me to be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me.”

In 2008, Desmond Tutu said –

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity. 

Butterfly Effects for Change – Part 8

“What I’ve come to learn is that the world is never saved in grand Messianic gestures but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft – almost invisible  – acts of compassion  – everyday acts of compassion.” (Chris Abani)

Butterfly Effects for Change

The kitchen table is piled with dishes.  Laundry flows like lava from baskets.  Bills glare reproachfully at you from their resting place on the fridge. So, what do you do? 

Well, you’d probably like to turn on your heel and begin a glamorous new life somewhere else.  Somewhere tidy, with fresh laundry and no bills, where you could tango until midnight instead of worrying about ‘stuff’.

That’s understandable but it’s also unlikely to be available to you as a real option, and even if it is, before long the dishes and clothes and bills will pile up all over again – unless you take charge.

Everything in the world obeys this principle – if we do nothing, the dysfunction grows and thrives and we become more intimidated and less able to see our way through any problem.

So – is there an answer?

There are a few.

How do you eat an elephant? A bite at a time.

Little by little, day by day.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

The flap of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas.

They’re called truisms because they’re true I guess.

The thing is, most change happens in increments, slices, tiny, insignificant-looking events.  Which does make it annoyingly slow but it also makes it largely achievable by pretty much anybody.

And not just change in your life or kitchen or house but all change.  Including change that can alleviate some of the suffering in the world.

Most of us are ordinary folk and we don’t do much to create the wars, the unjust economies or the atrocities committed in our names.  However, we can do quite a lot to change these things.

I know it seems unlikely.  I know it seems like you or I couldn’t possibly alter the world in any really significant way.

But, maybe if we did everything we could do – whatever that was – to address injustice or alleviate suffering, our tiny, insignificant-seeming actions would start a ripple of change that could grow and swell until something happened for the better?

To take part in this experiment, all that’s required is that we each do whatever we can do – however small and useless that seems.

A ton of feathers still weighs a ton (I made that one up)

Butterfly Effects for Change, is a collection of real stories – true accounts of ordinary people doing just that – whatever they could – and the change that resulted.

I’m trying to collect these stories and while I already have some, I’d like to invite people to add their own stories – or stories they know – or even send them to me if that seems like a better option.  I’d love to read them.

So here’s story number 1 –

Standing Up for Each Other*

In 1992, thousands of people died in HinduMuslim riots triggered by the destruction of a mosque at Ayodhya by a group of Hindu militants, yet in the state capital of Lucknow, only forty miles away, there wasn’t even one casualty.

This was partly due to the influence of the largest private school in the world, the City Montessori School. Founded in 1959, the school has over twenty thousand students from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

During daily reflection time, teams of students use stories and texts from the world’s religions to engage their fellow students in conversations about virtues like love and truthfulness.

Students also visit India’s holy places – Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Baha’i, and Jain – in order to learn understanding and respect for other faiths.

Classroom activities center around collaborative problem-solving and teachers go out of their way to commend and reward students for consideration of others.

The school actively encourages parents and grandparents to be involved in designing the school curriculum and to reinforce the principles of tolerance and cooperation at home.

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, during the 1992 conflict, thousands of students and parents responded by marching through Lucknow, singing songs of unity and carrying posters with slogans like, “The name of God is both Hindu and Muslim” and “God is One, Mankind is One, All Religions are One.”

Meanwhile, all the city’s religious leaders met at the school and, addressing members of the community, spoke out for coexistence, surrounded by models of a Hindu temple, a Muslim mosque, and a Christian church. Such efforts helped Lucknow escape the violence.


Story taken from The Third Side – *

Related articles

Are Human Rights alright? Part 4

Imagine what might happen if the results of the Human Genome Project really rocked the world.

People would stop each other in the streets.

“Hey, cousin!” they’d exclaim.

“I just found out we’re related! How are you?  Good to meet you! We must get together soon…”

Imagine then, if the realization that we are physiologically part of the same family, prompted us to begin acting like a family?

We’d be a sensible family.  One that knew it had problems but was confident that by working together we’d sort them out.

Problems like the issues surrounding human rights.

Our first step in tackling these problems, might be to make sure everybody feels part of our family. This in itself is a complicated process. We’d already know, from our smaller family units, that true belonging is only possible when both rights and responsibilities are in place.  It’s necessary for everyone in a healthy family to both give and take. This is justice and creates not only basic well-being but dignity and independence.

However, our ‘family’ might pause at this point to examine its conscience, just to make sure that there really is a place for everyone. It’d be in our own interest to do this because, as the African proverb goes,

If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth.

This proverb wasn’t written about the London riots but there’s no denying how well it fits them both literally and metaphorically.

Instinctively we all know that alienation is an extreme of ‘otherness’.  None of us have any loyalty, responsibility or affection for a society – or a family – we feel doesn’t want us. This alienation can sometimes be self-imposed but even so, the ‘family’ needs to be careful that we don’t create structures that perpetuate alienation and disaffection.

OK – so now we have our global family structure. Everyone is welcome and needed – so, what happens next?

Well, obviously, we’re going to ensure that everyone is fed, clothed, housed and safe within our family. Basic life prerequisites.

But this doesn’t mean that some people should do the providing and others should just get to consume the resources – far from it. A good family will always help out in emergencies and will gladly provide for children and anybody vulnerable. But a really good family will also create an environment where everybody can stand on their own feet and live a dignified, productive and independent life.

So, in very simplistic terms, a ‘family’ approach would ensure that everybody had the basics necessary to sustain life and access to the ‘tools’ necessary to allow independence, dignity and the opportunity to contribute to the overall well-being of the family.

How then might our family gathering approach unpleasant issues like the abuse of the ‘rights’ accorded to everyone within our system?

Well, we all know that this behaviour doesn’t have a place in a functional family. Everybody is absolutely expected to respect everybody else and no abuse can be tolerated. We do make mistakes in this regard – even in our smaller families – but overall, guided by the principles of justice – not revenge – our wise family would take whatever steps it needed to take to secure the well-being of the entire family.

And so we might continue, looking at global problems through a lens we understand – the family.

The world is knotted in deep and terrible disorder and no one simple solution is the answer to all of it’s problems. However, sometimes when things are hard to understand and manage it’s helpful to return to first principles.  To things we already know and understand. Like families. We all know about families.

In a family we’d expect love, mutual assistance, support, forbearance and concern with each other’s welfare. This isn’t considered ridiculously idealistic as a goal for a family.

Now that we know that ‘our family’ includes all sorts of people – children who are being sold for sex and slavery, men, women and children struggling and needlessly starving to death, minorities who are persecuted for their ethnicity or beliefs – maybe we won’t only feel concern for them but also responsibility, and a certain entitlement to have a say in their welfare, just as we might with members of our known family?

In the words of Article 28 0f the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

The corollary of that is that all of us also have a responsibility to ensure that this happens.


Photograph – UNICEF – Pakistan, 2010: A boy flies a kite in a camp for people displaced by flooding that began in late July 2010, affecting 18 million people, half of them children.


Truman's future Vice President Alben W. Barkle...

Future US Vice President, Alben W. Barkley, visits Buchenwald, shortly after its liberation in 1945.

You can’t forget what you don’t know.  Take driving as an example. When you become a confident and competent driver you’re no longer conscious of every single thing you do as you drive – in effect you ‘forget’ you are driving.  But it is essential for you to really know how to drive before this forgetting can happen.

So perhaps we can only forget ourselves after we know ourselves.  Nowadays we think of self-knowledge as all affirmations and positivity.  This isn’t necessarily all that there is to knowing yourself.

Regardless of what we think we might do if we lived in Nazi Germany – or any other repressive regime – statistically the chances are that we would, at best, be part of the silent majority who let evil flourish.

So what part of yourself might facilitate this?  What part of me?

In his many lectures, Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, suggests that we look at ourselves until we can work out our dark side because this knowledge will make us careful of how we act in the world.  His hypothesis is that when we know we are dealing with a loaded weapon rather than some ineffectual feather-duster, this will help us to achieve the great good we are all also capable of achieving. (1)

Self-mastery is only possible through self-knowledge, so perhaps if we are also interested in being selfless as well as being in control of ourselves, then perhaps we must first have a good understanding of who we really are and how we really work.


The Shadow of the Future

Even computers know that the best strategy for winning is to cooperate.  (1)

Birds, animals, cells in our body – all know to work together. And yet human beings – the owners of much lauded brain power – seem to be still struggling with the concept.

Robert Axlerod, who conducted the studies on cooperation that proved even a computer would cooperate, suggests that one of the key factors influencing the decision to cooperate, is what he calls, ‘the shadow of the future.’

Axlerod discovered that players in the study were careful not to burn their boats if there was a chance that they would meet again.

Most of us would agree that not alienating people with whom we have on-going relationships is simple commonsense. So, perhaps we might be more willing to trade short-term gain for long term results when we are interacting with others, if we teach ourselves to lift up our heads and look past the moment.

If we all did that, just think how much cooperation would be going on – I wonder how that might change the world?


Photograph – Physical Culture Class, April 27,1909 – Poole Collection – National Library, Ireland

(1) Axelrod, Robert (1984), The Evolution of Cooperation, Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-02122-2


Courage is not the opposite of fear – it is the defiance of fear. Looking fear in the eye, we gird up our loins and act anyway.

However, to be courageous doesn’t mean to be reckless.

Recklessness is thoughtless.

Courage is thoughtful.

When we are reckless we don’t recognise – or acknowledge – the dangers, therefore it requires no courage to act recklessly.

Courage is what’s needed when you know what you stand to lose and act anyway.  We admire courage in others and, if we want to feel good about ourselves, acting courageously will generally help with that.

It’s easy to say we should have courage – we’d all like to think of ourselves as courageous – but if it was that easy to have we’d all be brave all the time.

Still, we can but try…

Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.  John Wayne



All animals – including humans – can use their brains to think and their thoughts can then be transformed into actions.  However, only human beings appear to have the capacity to reflect on their actions.

Conscience, free will, self-mastery, imagination etc., are all facets of reflection. When we think and act, we are like our fellow animals.  When we think, act and then reflect we begin to develop our uniquely human capacities.  This process gives us access to a vast ability that allows us to be in control of our actions and not simply driven by our physiology.

Seems a shame not to use it more.


Photograph – Corean Beauty, c. 1904 – Collection: Willard Dickerman Straight and Early U.S.-Korea Diplomatic Relations, Cornell University Library.

Identifier: 1260.74.12.06

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