Once I Had a Nosebleed


The title of this post is misleading.

I have had many, many nosebleeds in my life.

Some big.  Some small.  Some medium.  And a lot more than once.  I am extremely prone to nosebleeds and can spontaneously begin to bleed from the nose mid-conversation.  I am reliably informed that this is very disconcerting to watch. I have had nosebleeds while eating, drinking, talking, working, driving, walking, sleeping, watching TV, in the shower, at weddings – you get the picture.  If I was in a TV programme or movie I would be pretty sure that this unprovoked bleeding in a character would mean that he/she was either about to die (House/Six Feet Under) or was possessed by aliens (can’t think of an example but you get my drift).  Anyway, this is the story of one of my nosebleeds.

When I finished secondary school I went to work for the summer in Holland (really called the Netherlands but everybody calls it Holland).  I was employed – along with hundreds of other students – in a factory packing flower bulbs.  It was fine.  It was fun.  I was seventeen and it was a big, big adventure and then, one day I had a nose bleed at work.  It started the usual way by spontaneously pouring down my face.  I went to the bathroom and it continued to bleed, I applied pressure, threw water on my face, my neck, my wrists – did everything I knew how to do (as trained by my mother the nurse) and still it persisted.  It bled and bled and bled.

In the Ladies’ toilet in that flower-bulb factory there was a long, stainless steel sink along one wall with numerous taps overhead.  Running parallel with the sink was a big mirror. I stood there.  Miles and miles from home, my blood all over the stainless steel splash-back and mirror, blood all over my face and hands and clothes and a stream of Dutch women coming in to try to help me but all failing and resorting to hysterics.  I looked at myself in the mirror as they held my wrists under the cold water to try to stop me passing out (does that really work?).  My eyes wide with terror, my face white and blood streaked – I began to freak out.  Crying and screaming and buckling at the knees.  Somewhere in the all-encompassing hysteria someone called a doctor.  I had nothing to do with it.

First thing I knew about the doctor was when he appeared in the distorted cacophonous reality in the Ladies’ toilet. The noise bouncing off the tiles and steel and glass was like knives. Me crying.  Middle-aged supervisors and office staff high-pitched chattering like hysterical Dutch magpies.  Water everywhere.  Blood everywhere.  He appeared as if out of nowhere and just stood looking at me in the blood smeared mirror.  After a few seconds he spoke (in English) – “Stop.”

At first the sound made no sense.  He said it again.  “Stop.”

This was absurd!  Clearly he was missing the fact that I was dying.  It was obvious from the blood bath and even more obvious from the wailing women and worried men all around that my young life was ending in the bathroom of a flower-bulb factory.

And it was such a pity.  If I was going to die at seventeen I would have liked it to be for some heroic reason.  “She saved a child from a burning building/runaway train/stampede.”  Not she had a nosebleed to death.

The doctor was unmoved by the scene. He really wasn’t getting it.  I was dying and it wasn’t even romantic or worthwhile.  But this Dutch doctor didn’t seem to care.  I cried on.  The women wailed on.  He didn’t move.  Didn’t fall to his knees sobbing and wringing his hands at the tragedy that was unfolding in the factory bathroom.  Instead, he just stood there, calmly, as if nothing important or terrifying was happening and repeated himself quietly.  “Stop.  Stop it now.”

I was furious.  He was clearly a heartless bastard who didn’t care about me or anybody else…

I stopped crying.

The doctor was kind to me then – he packed my nose (which was horrible – I’m sure some of you have had to have it done) and ignored the fact that I was not only ungrateful but frostily furious with him.

He was such a fool!  How dare he speak to me like that!  Was that all he’d learned in medical school?

Maybe it was.

If it was all he learned I now see it differently to when I was 17.  Now I think he’d learned quite a lot.

He’d learned to take responsibility and put his neck on the line and keep to his own truth.

He’d learned that even though everything might be broken it was never going to be fixed while everything was flying around in the air.

He’d learned that – like blood – sometimes we need to staunch the flow of our emotions, even temporarily and even artificially – if we are to survive.  And he’d learned that it was more important to do what he knew to be right than to get pulled into the world of an hysterical 17 year old – and a roomful of almost as hysterical adults.

I never knew his name.  I was too busy being mad at him.  I hope he had – has – a nice life.

The Roots of Rights


On December 10th, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Nowadays, when we think of human rights, what exactly do we think?

Do we think that human rights are nothing to do with us?

That human rights are best left to activists?

Experts.

Professionals.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Chair of the UN Commission that wrote the UDHR, had a very different vision of human rights –

In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

Butterfly effects for human rights?

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In Consequence


It’s hard to see the big picture when your head is jammed with the problems of the moment.

But the big picture is always there even when our view of it is blocked.

The main reason to look at the ‘big picture’ is that it helps us to look at the end of things – the consequences of our actions.

Everything we do matters.

Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences.

Norman Cousins

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L. E. side

Accession Number: 2007:0274:0069

Maker: James Jowers (American b. 1938)

Title: L. E. side

Date: 1967

Medium: gelatin silver print

Dimensions: Image: 15.9 x 24 cm Overall: 20.1 x 25.4 cm

Parenting the Soul – Butterfly Effects for Change


This is a most amazing story written by my friend, Ann O’Sullivan. Ann is a psychotherapist whose has begun an initiative called Parenting the Soul, which specializes in working with parents to help develop their children’s potential.

http://soulparenting.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/parenting-the-soul-an-introduction/

My next door neighbour, Eleanor, came to my door with a colourful bunch of garden flowers. Her seven-year old face beaming, she thrust them towards me.

‘These are for you,’ she said.

I received them delightedly, chatted for a while, cementing the bonds of genuine affection that were growing between us.

Eleanor had come to my neighbourhood a few years previously, her family having been relocated by the Council as part of an initiative to integrate problem families into more stable neighbourhoods. The initiative was having limited success. My old neighbours, resentful and unhappy, made no effort to integrate the new families. And the new families slept in their new homes, but returned to their old neighbourhoods for friendships and socializing. The best point of contact between me and my new neighbours was Eleanor, with whom I had become fast friends.

Two weeks later, she came to the door again, another bunch of flowers clutched in her chubby hand, telling me that she and her cousin Johnny had picked bunches of flowers and were selling them door to door at €2 each in order to make money for sweets.

I looked doubtfully over the hedge at the concrete apron that was her front garden, and smelled a rat. I had imagine that the previous bunch may have come from her Granny’s house, but several bunches? I didn’t think so.

Squatting down so that we were at eye level I said: ‘Darling, where did you and Johnny get the flowers?’ She gestured to an unoccupied house on the other side of mine.

‘In that back garden’ she replied.

I gently explained that the flowers weren’t hers to pick, they belonged to whoever owned the house.

‘But nobody owns that house!’ she told me triumphantly.

So I explained that somebody did own the house, they just didn’t live there. And so she shouldn’t pick the flowers because they weren’t hers. She was crestfallen, and a bit cross with me, and went away with a sullen little pout.

For a time there was a bit of bad feeling between us. Eleanor was angry with me for no matter how gentle and kindly I had tried to be, she had felt reprimanded. But I persevered in chatting with her whenever we met and eventually she got over it, and friendly relations were established between us again. She never mentioned the flowers again, and neither did I.

One year later, I was out and about in the garden, chatting to Sheila, a longtime friend and neighbour. Spotting Eleanor in the distance reminded her to tell me that a few weeks earlier when I had been away, Eleanor had knocked on her door. Gasping for breath from running, she pointed at the vacant house next door to mine and said: ‘My cousin Johnny is picking flowers in that garden and he shouldn’t be, because that’s not his house, it belongs to somebody else.’

Sheila spoke with Johnny while Eleanor looked smugly on, a small little girl who had learned, and internalized, a valuable lesson for the life of her soul.

Reflection


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.

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

Identifier: 1260.74.12.06

Persistent URI:  http://hdl.handle.net/1813.001/5xs8

What Everybody Needs to Know About Thinking for Yourself


Thinking for yourself is not about following every whimsical notion and desire and doing just as you please.

Thinking for yourself means doing your utmost to work out how you should act and then being willing to take responsibility for those actions.

We need to learn how to take in information – including the opinions and views of others – process this information and then apply it.  This is thinking for oneself.

In the past it was hard to access information – now the opposite is true.  Now the challenge is learning to think so that information can be translated into knowledge. Now everyone is both entitled and required to contribute to the generation and application of knowledge.

What everybody needs to know about thinking is that it’s no longer someone else’s job so, it really is time we all learned to truly think for ourselves.

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Photograph – Rural school children, San Augustine County, Texas, USA. Library of Congress collection – – http://www.flickr.com/x/t/0093009/photos/library_of_congress/2179121471/