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 Future is Made from Wishes


When I first saw this I didn’t think I’d post it as I have posted so much – so many links, so many articles, so many videos – on the importance of the education of girls and the development of women for the welfare of all human societies.  At this point even I am sick of hearing myself talk about this subject.

But I couldn’t talk myself out of posting this.  Please watch it.  It is so comprehensive and so complete that you’ll be glad you did watch it.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

The Fruits of their Labour


I’ve talked about this before (ages ago) but it strikes me as worth talking about again as it is such a good example of how it is always worth doing what you believe to be right, even when everyone is telling you it won’t change anything.

In July, 1984, a 21 year old cashier in an Irish supermarket – Dunnes Stores- refused to handle two Outspan grapefruit at her checkout. She did this because her union had decided to protest against apartheid in South Africa by not handling South African produce.  The cashier’s name was Mary Manning and she was suspended for her actions.  Ten of her colleagues went on strike to protest  against her treatment and so began a strike that lasted almost three years.

Eventually though, the Dunnes Stores workers prevailed and the Irish government agreed to ban the importing of South African fruit and vegetables until the apartheid regime was dismantled.

Today in Johannesburg, a street is named after Mary Manning and she and her colleagues have been personally commended by Nelson Mandela and his successor, Thabo Mbeki.

As Margaret Mead, the well-known anthropologist said –

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Every single thing that every single one of us does all of the time matters in the overall scheme of things.  There is no such thing as a deed – good or bad –that doesn’t have some effect somewhere.

Scary?  Maybe.

But heartening too when you think about it.


Flowers Are So Inconsistent…


So the little prince, in spite of all the good will that was inseparable from his love, had soon come to doubt her. He had taken seriously words which were without importance, and it made him very unhappy.
 
“I ought not to have listened to her,” he confided to me one day. “One never ought to listen to the flowers. One should simply look at them and breathe their fragrance. Mine perfumed all my planet. But I did not know how to take pleasure in all her grace. This tale of claws, which disturbed me so much, should only have filled my heart with tenderness and pity.”
 
And he continued his confidences:
 
“The fact is that I did not know how to understand anything!  I ought to have judged by deeds and  not by words.  She cast her fragrance and her radiance over me.  I ought never to have run away from her…I ought to have guessed all the affection that lay behind her poor little strategems. Flowers are so inconsistent!  But I was too young to know how to love her…” (1)
 

Words fool us and seduce us.

They are symbols of the way we would like things to be.

Or the way we are afraid things are.

And not only other people’s words.

We also seduce and frighten our selves with words,

promising ourselves that we will become the things we admire…

telling ourselves that we’re not afraid…

that we don’t care…

that we’re not hurt…

in the hope that the promise, the intention, the hope, the aspiration – will suffice – but it won’t.

Words are important because they are capable of being symbols but in order for them to be solid and not hollow they have to have substance outside themselves – that’s the nature of a symbol.

All we can rely on – whether its regarding ourselves or others – is action.

Deeds.

It’s all we have.

Let deeds, not words, be your adorning. (2)

_______________________________________________________________

 

(1)Antoine de Saint Exupéry – The Little Prince.

(2) Bahá’u’lláh – The Hidden Words.

Visibly Good


The Butterfly Effect is easy to understand – one small change can result in a huge change down the line. A ball rolling down a hill hits a tiny pebble which changes the ball’s trajectory so much it ends up miles and miles away from where it was originally headed. This effect is neither good nor bad in itself, it is simply a fact of nature.

But it is a fact.

Use it to make small differences that can change the world for the better.

Many of you will have seen the Kony 2012 campaign already – if not, watch the trailer and – when you have a half an hour to spare – watch the movie itself.

It’s time the good in people became visible…

http://www.invisiblechildren.com.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/

How We Can Live Together…


More than 30 years ago, an Egyptian-born Dominican monk, Bruno Hussar, wanted to create a place where people could learn how to live together – so he founded a new village between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in Israel.

This new community was named Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam – Oasis of Peace, and here people of all religions were welcome to come and live and work together. Thirty years later, this is a thriving village with a waiting list of applicants wishing to join the community.

Abdessalam Najjar, an Arab Muslim from the Galilee region of Israel, was one of the first people to move into Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam.  Najjar says of Bruno Hussar’s intentions.

“His interest was to deal with the conflict. Why do we have a conflict? How can we influence the dynamics of the conflict and how can we change it for dynamics for peace building?”

Rabbi Ron Kronish of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, works alongside people of all religious backgrounds in trying to establish peace and unity.  Together they work at building relationships between people because this is what they believe will lay the groundwork for real and sustainable peace.  Rabbi Kronish says,

“We don’t invite people to our dialogues to solve the problem. We invite them to get to know one another, to be in place, to do what you can, to mitigate violence and hatred.”

The people of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam know how hard it is to achieve this deceptively simple goal but many of them believe they can succeed if they approach the work in a specific way.  As Abdessalam Najjar explains,

“I believe, and there are some others believe, that peace education and the peace actions in the absence of the spiritual factor will be not complete, and if we will use the spiritual factor, we will be more able, more courage to do a peaceful action.”

This video – Interfaith Village in Israel – gives a very interesting account of life in Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam.

___________________________________________________________________

*Photograph – Waverly Place by James Jowers – 1968.  George Eastman House Collection –
Accession Number: 2007:0275:0038

Related articles