Tag Archives: humanity

#AtoZchallenge – We Are Donne.

Phew! We have finally reached the end of the April A-Z Challenge, and in a curious fusion of the contemporary Madden Brothers with 17th Century Baroque poet, John Donne, We Are Donne.

We studied John Donne’s poetry at school and both of these poems are the perfect accompaniment to my Letters To Dead Poets.

Death Be Not Proud –

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

John Donne

Bust of John Donne

Photo: Matthew Black.

Thank you very much to everyone who has accompanied me along this journey. Or, simply popped in now and then. Your company along the road has been much appreciated and it’s been fabulous travelling along this “road not taken” together and to bring our islands together into a connected community…even if our paths never actually cross in “the real world”.

More than kisses, letters mingle souls.
John Donne
Love and Best wishes,
xx Rowena
Family shadow Byron Lighthouse Easter 2014

Our Family 2014- Byron Bay Lighthouse, Australia.

 

 

Banjo Paterson Replies #atozchallenge.

No sooner than I’d finished my letter to Australian poet, Banjo Paterson, I received a reply. Moreover, it wasn’t some lame: “Out of Office Autoreply” either. He actually wrote to me.

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your philosophical letter. It’s been such a long time since anyone has asked me for advice or even been in touch. Your letter really made my day.

While you asked me what it means to be a man, what I say holds true for both boys and girls, men and women.So, I’m addressing what it means to be a man, a woman…a person.

I understand that the Man From Snowy River has been held up as the ideal Aussie bloke but that was never my intent. So, I guess I should warn you, in case you ever decide to get something published, that once it’s out there, your work gains a life all of its own. You can’t control what happens to it or how the public might interpret it. It’s very much like watching your children grow up and move out in the world. They do what they like and you’re just a by-stander.

Anyway, getting back to your letter, this is the very first thing which came to mind…

There is no prescription. No “one size fits all”.

Tell your children: “You are who you are”. We each need to spread own wings to follow our dreams, wherever they take us.

They need to pick up the pen and write their own stories. Don’t  let someone else do it for them, even if that means losing a friend and walking alone for awhile. It’s not worth giving away your soul, your very self. The price is too high.

However, as their Mum or Dad, you’re also quite a guiding light. As individuals, we don’t always see ourselves all that clearly and a bit of a reality check is a good thing…especially when we sell ourselves short and don’t see ourselves in all our technicolour beauty.

Keep venturing beyond what they know, exploring all sorts of nooks and crannies instead of simply staying between the lines.  One of the very first things children learn at school, is to stay between the lines. Conform to the rules and only colour in between the lines. Be contained. Don’t venture out or break the rules and restraints which confine you. Rather, stay put and do as you’re told.

Why is this so important and has anyone ever truly learned anything sitting down? I learned so much out on the horse’s back.

Being an individual is important. After all, nobody has the same fingerprint. We are our own unique self.

At the same time, there is a commonality among us. Something which unifies people. Makes us human. Goes beyond our DNA. Somehow, while we’re all individuals, we are also Human. As the saying goes: “The geese go barefoot everywhere.”

So I guess that leaves us with quite a conundrum. We each have our own unique fingerprint and yet we are one and the same. How is this so?

Unfortunately, dying hasn’t made solving these conundrums any easier.

So, on that note, I would like to wish you all the best for your remaining travels. However, I should warn you that I’ve met a few of these dead poets at poetry readings and cafes up here. Quite a few are rather intense. They’ve been keeping me rather busy but somehow a good horse ride through the bush calms them down…the magic of horses!

On that note, I’d best be off. Monday’s poet is trying to push me off my perch!

Best wishes,

Banjo

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That was quite a reply with so much food for thought. I guess that what he’s saying is that there isn’t some ideal prototype which we should be striving to become. That, as tempting as it might appear to walk inside someone else’s shoes and even become them, that we need to resist. Be ourselves and follow our own path…even when it heads cross-country, seemingly disappearing in the bush. That’s the fun of going bush-bashing! Exploring the great unknown!

What I am struggling to understand is how we can be unique individuals and yet one human race. Is it like all the difference pixels coming together to form a picture? There’s that diversity and yet when it comes together there is unity.

Anyway, as Banjo said, all of this is a conundrum.

One of those great questions which only generates more questions.

What are your thoughts? Any ideas? Look forward to hearing from you!

xx Rowena

 

Interview…ducks

An inspiring interview between a human and a duck, commenting on the state of our planet xx Rowena

Rethinking Life

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“I don’t understand?  We’re white, we have feathers, right?  Sure, we’re smaller in size and our beaks are orange but for the most part we’re the same.”

“I see your point but swans are still considered…”

“Prettier than we are.”

“Not by every one, of course.  I think you’re gorgeous.”

“Thank you.  We really don’t care, it’s just that you humans try and pit us against each other.  You draw attention to our differences and then rank us, as if what you say matters.  Swans, geese, ducks, you know.  We’re friends and you try to make one of us better than the others.  That’s what you crazy humans do.  Rank, measure, name, and destroy beauty. You take the natural beauty out of everything and make life a contest.”

“I guess we do.”

“You definitely do.  Anything different, or flashy, or bigger, or better, or whatever catches your eye, is the…

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Stumbling into the Chinese Lunar New Year, Sydney!

Have you ever found a piece of jigsaw puzzle lying beside the road? All you have is that single piece and you can’t help wondering what the rest of the puzzle looked like but feel completely overwhelmed by the enormity and impossibility of the task? How can you ever hope to assemble the big picture from only one little piece?

You know you can’t and yet you’re almost being eaten alive by curiosity!

What is it?

That’s what it was like for me yesterday when my daughter and I stumbled into the Chinese Lunar New Year Celebrations in Sydney yesterday. We were simply walking from Darling Harbour to Town Hall Station, via the Queen Victoria Building (QVB), to catch the train home.

After walking through some smokey food stores, we came across this stunning but also intriguing lantern sculpture towering through the QVB.

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Queen Victoria Building: a red lantern Sculpture rises to the  dome.

As we walked on, we spotted what looked like an enormous inflatable bee but turned out to be a Tiger.

A Tiger? To mark the beginning of the Year of the Monkey?

Clearly, the tiger is also juggling four different coloured balls. What are they? What do they mean?

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Queen Victoria is clearly not too sure what to make of her new neighbour?

When you write a blog, it’s no longer enough to walk past these mysteries and simply write them off as someone else’s culture. You just can’t let ignorance go through to the keeper. You have to find out. Explore. Come up with the answers.

Or, at least ask Google. Find out.

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The question is: how much time do you allocate to the quest?

Cultural icons don’t suddenly appear. They have been built up, layer up on layer, over hundreds and even thousands of years. Of course, the complexity and nuance of all this history can’t instantly be gleaned from Google and understood. It really is something you need to live and breathe and to give due respect, almost needs to be your own.

 

Yet,  if we only stay home and never cross that bridge, we’ll never build bridges between nations, cultures and peoples.

Moreover, have you ever considered that people, not just countries, are multicultural? This means that we even have these mergers and fractures inside our very selves.

While Irish, German and Scottish blood battle it out in my genes, I don’t have any personal connection to Chinese culture, beyond buying take away meals and a fleeting day trip to China from Hong Kong back in 1988.

This makes developing any level of cultural understanding difficult.

 

So, far Google hasn’t been altogether helpful but what I did find out is that Sydney is hosting what’s claimed to be the biggest Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations outside mainland China. 12 giant lantern sculptures have been erected at iconic Sydney landmarks. That explained why the Tiger was outside the QVB. Unfortunately, we didn’t see our Tiger lit up but it was still an interesting spectacle.

These 12 sculptures represent the 12 years of the Chinese zodiac or Sheng Xiao: Each year is represented by one animal (and one mythical creature, the dragon). There are 12 animals in a specific order, and the 12-animal-cycle rotates every 12 years. In Sheng Xiao these animals are (in order): Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat (or Ram), Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.

Apparently, I was born in the Year of the Rooster and in this the Year of the Monkey:

During the year, the Rooster-born need to clear all misunderstandings quickly. It is important to seek expert advice when faced with failure. They can make wrong judgments if they rely on external information without personally delving deeper into what is actually happening. Good luck can be destroyed with careless action when trying to find solutions when faced with financial, family or personal problems.

This sounds like good advice for anyone, don’t you think?!!

You can find your zodiac and read more here

Anyway, in my usual fashion, I made quite a mistake consulting Google and should’ve gone straight to Wikipaedia where pretty much all is explained. Moreover, it confirmed just how much tradition is involved in this ancient festival and that a few photos taken passing by, could never do it justice.

Yet, at least, I paused and looked a little further.

Asked a few questions.

We might not be able to walk in someone else’s shoes but at least we can try them on. Stumble around. We don’t even need to pretend they fit. Indeed, it’s probably better we don’t.

Happy Chinese New Year!

If you are celebrating Chinese New Year or can enlighten me at all, please leave a link in the comments!

xx Rowena

 

The Quest for Compassion at Christmas Time.

Every month, I take part in a global blogging movement:  One Thousand Voices For Compassion. For almost a year now, we’ve been writing a post every month about some aspect of compassion which we’ve come together and shared. I know that for me, focusing on compassion every month and sharing these values with like-minded crusaders has truly expanded my horizons and my world. It’s been such an inspiration!

Here’s a link to the link-up: http://www.inlinkz.com/new/view.php?id=592285

So, here I am back again thinking about compassion. I haven’t watched the news for a few weeks so events beyond my own microcosm are something of a mystery but I know our world is in crisis on many, many fronts. However, I also know that there is much beauty and love in our world as well. As an optimist, I have to believe that ultimately goodness will triumph evil. That one person, even one little person like myself, can actually be a part of what makes a difference…especially when we come together… just like grains of sand joining to make a rock.

I have already contributed a post about visiting Sydney’s Lindt Cafe 12 months after the terrorist siege which shut down the Sydney CBD and resulted in three deaths. This was a very emotional moment for me, especially as I knew one of the hostages: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/sydneys-lindt-cafe-12-months-on/

However, while it is important to be mindful of events making headlines around the world, so much flies under the radar and I feel that by addressing some of the smaller stuff, that we could indeed make inroads on some of the bigger issues.

After all my pre-Christmas trials and tribulations, I have been reminded yet again about the dangers of perfection. Moreover, in the context of Christmas,  how expectations of perfection can all too easily destroy the spiritual, social and fun aspects of Christmas turning it into a horrific ordeal where everything we truly hold dear could well go up in smoke. By the way, I’m not talking about your precious turkey or Christmas pud here but relationships. Love exploding into smithereens under the pressure as nothing or no one could ever possibly measure up to those unrealistic standards of perfection. After all, who really lives on the set of Vogue Living…especially if they have kids, pets and experience any sort of joie de vivre?

Even though I’m pretty laissez-faire about the house, even I’ve found myself getting caught up in this perfectionist trap this Christmas.

Let’s start off with the tree.

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Our Christmas Tree

Even though our tree might look pretty slap-dash with it’s cluttered eclectic menagerie of mismatched ornaments and the poor angel precariously perched at the top looking like she about to jump off, a lot of thought went into that tree. The tree is fresh and was specially ordered in, as we didn’t want a big tree. We have way too many ornaments and so I went through the boxes with my daughter only picking out the best, the favourites and made a mental note to chuck out the broken ones. Cut back.

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Christmas Stocking made 1982, aged 13. Close-up of my crappy needlework.

I know it’s not the done thing to hang your broken ornaments on your tree, especially pride of place. However, what are we supposed to do with broken people? Do we throw them out as well? I don’t think so, especially when you think this through a little further and realise we’re all imperfect or broken in some way.  This, of course means, that we’re either all in. Or, we’re all out!

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My not so perfect shortbread Christmas Trees.

Again, I was struck by the perils of perfection while baking shortbread Christmas Trees. While turning shortbread into shapes seemed like a good idea, it certainly wasn’t child’s play. Trying to extract the shortbread mixture from the cookie cutter involved surgical precision, especially when it came to removing the trunk intact. It even required a scalpel AKA butter knife. By the time I’d finished, no two trees were exactly the same. Yes, you could tell they’d been cut by the same cutter but there was also some other force at work. It’s called being handmade. Not something churned out by a factory where each and every detail is identical and any variation is either chucked out or sold off cheap as “Factory Seconds”!

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Heart Teddy is missing an eye. Does that mean it’s officially broken and should be chucked out? I don’t think so!

That is also what it means to be human. Excluding identical twins, no two humans are exactly alike. There are themes and variations and just like my shortbread biscuits. We need to embrace everyone without expecting to see ourselves reflected in every mirror. Well, may be not embrace but at least accept. After all,  I’m not suggesting that you need to go hugging complete strangers to be compassionate.

Humanity needs diversity, a kaleidoscope….certainly not identical, factory-made clones.

However, accepting diversity doesn’t usually come easily. It requires compassion, empathy and, above all else, love. Not just towards others but also ourselves. If we can’t accept imperfection in ourselves how can we possibly hope to accept it in others? That said, for some of us we’re much more critical of ourselves than others. Then, our journey is more about learning to show compassion, love and acceptance to ourselves at least to the same degree that we shower it on others.

This all leads me to my greatest Achilles Heel…having the house neat and tidy for Christmas. Quite frankly, this just isn’t going to happen. All house is bursting at the seams. We’ve had to move and rearrange things to fit in the tree and a piano load of decorations. Moreover, we’ve had so much on, that we’ve only had time to dump and run, which does nothing for maintaining the house. Yet, we’ve performed in end of year concerts. I’ve been doing my blog. Made a Christmas cake, shortbread and I posted 35 Christmas cards today. Is a spotless house really going to bring any joy to anyone? I don’t know but fortunately, we’ll be having Christmas lunch at my aunt’s place. This, of course means, that the house can wait! As long as Santa can squeeze in, we’ll be happy!

Our home might be somewhat overstocked but at least it has a heart and there are far greater crimes about humanity than a bit of dog hair on the carpet!

After all, Baby Jesus was born in a very humble manger in a stable surrounded by barnyard animals and his first visitors were lowly shepherds. That is what we are really honouring at Christmas which is so, so far removed from our contemporary notions of the “perfect Christmas”.

Yet, I am who I am and I still feel like all my efforts have fallen painfully short. That nothing’s quite right. I don’t even know if I’ll manage to convey what I know matters most…love. Trying to show others you love them isn’t a perfect art. We all know how those efforts can backfire. I can only hope that the spirit of Christmas somehow fills in all the cracks, converting my best intentions into something which touches their hearts like a magic wand.

After all, isn’t that’s what’s truly important? To know you are loved and for others to know you love them?!!

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“Heartman” Drawn by Mister 2010 aged 6.

So, embracing the spirit of compassion this Christmas may we embrace each other and ourselves with love and acceptance just as we are…whatever that means!

If you would like to read more about compassion, here’s a link through to the link-up:

Our family wishes you and yours an Australian “Merry Christmas”. This is a greeting which covers most creeds and cultures here and largely refers to the man in the big red suit, some Christmas “cheer” and time off work, which could well be spent at the beach. This is how so many Australians unfortunately find themselves wearing patchy red birthday suits. More compassion required!

Love and Best Wishes,

Rowena, Geoff, Mister, Miss, Bilbo and Lady

PS: “Happy Holidays” is not a greeting used in Australia and so despite wanting to be culturally sensitive and all-embracing, I feel that I need to be true to where I’m from and what these words mean where I am. Merry Christmas is just like saying “G’day mate” and has lost much of its Christian heritage. I’m not too sure what I think of that either.

 

 

An Old Dog Teaches Humans New Tricks About Love.

For some reason, many humans arrogantly believe they are innately superior to dogs. That they have all the answers and there is nothing at all they could possibly learn from their best friend.

I beg  to disagree.

If only humans could only interpret paw prints, they’d know that their canine counterparts also have a significant understanding of matters philosophical and psychological, although like so many of our canine achievements, they have gone unnoticed.

Perhaps, you’re already aware that I am quite the dog philosopher. My particular field of research is how to teach old humans new tricks.

Unfortunately, I’m not having much success.

Although you might think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, this is all lies. Pure human propaganda!!

Dogs, both young and old, are more than willing to learn new tricks…just as long as we consider them worthwhile. Of course, there has to be a point… a sense of purpose. After all, we’re dogs…not robots!!

I’m sure you’d understand that once you’ve worked hard to reach that all-important 10,000 hours of practice and have finally become a champion, be that a champion ball chaser, stick fetcher or sheep herder, you don’t want to start all over again and lose all those precious skills. You see, whenever, you take on a new skill, there’s that very steep learning curve and you have to put in quite a lot of time and effort to reach the top of the hill. So, if you’re already dedicated to your chosen field, you might not have the capacity to take on something new and master that as well. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn new tricks. It’s a matter of choice. After all:

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Although I’m not all dogs, I’ve been quite willing to try new things and extend my horizons.

In the last two years, I’ve gone from being your garden-variety backyard dog and stepped out into the world of extreme sports. I’ve been sailing, kayaking and hardest of all, I’ve even welcomed another dog into our household. Hence, I’ve had to share the things I value most with my uninvited “guest”: Mum, Dad, the kids and even my precious tennis ball.

To further stretch my patience and my heartstrings, Lady, the new dog in our family, still hasn’t worked out that tennis balls are for retrieving. Instead, she ignorantly runs off with them and parks herself on the grass where she chews them up and even pulls their fur out bit by bit. I might be patient but that’s a lot for The Ball Fetching Champion of the Universe to endure.

However, in the spirit of love and acceptance, which is key to all my philosophical beliefs, we have become friends. Lady has also taught me the power of positive thinking and that it’s good to wag your tail once and awhile.

This is what it means to live in harmony.

On the other hand, my research has shown that humans are very set in their ways and can’t even teach themselves new tricks. Instead, they just keep repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again non-stop.

In my first post, I mentioned that humans seem to have a strange aversion to being “nice” and that indeed there’s quite a lot of “haters” out there. People who would much rather hate than love, accept and encourage. I found this very difficult to understand because most dogs innately try to be good. We want to love and be loved, although there might be a few exceptions. So many humans, on the other hand, seem to be hell bent on being mean, hurtful and just plain nasty.

On the home front, I’ve mentioned how my very own family takes great delight in throwing my ball into the water at Palm Beach, even though they know how much I suffer. Then, adding salt to the wound, Mum takes photos and video footage of me writhing in agony thinking it’s funny…a huge game. That is, instead of saving my ball and helping me out. That really hurts…especially since Mum uses the Golden Rule as her mantra:

The Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.

As we move further afield, you just need to turn on your TV.

Last year, we had the shooting down of MH17, the Sydney Siege, the Pakistan Massacre, seven children murdered seemingly by their own mother in Cairns.She also murdered their cousin.

Fast forward to 2015, the United Nations Year of Light, and we have Paris.

Perhaps, I’ve missed something but from where I sit, the humans haven’t learned anything at all.

Well…

That’s not entirely true because you can’t judge the many by the few.

Australians mourn the loss of hostages in the Martin Place Siege. We send their family and friends our heartfelt condolences.

Australians mourn the loss of hostages in the Martin Place Siege. We send their family and friends our heartfelt condolences. Photo: The Age.

Indeed, following the Sydney Siege, the heart of the city was overflowing with genuine grief and floral tributes. There was an overwhelming outpouring of love. One man might have been evil, pure evil, but millions were good. While that couldn’t change what had happened, it did show that the humans do have a capacity for love, compassion and empathy. There was also that campaign #I’ll ride with you that reached out to show love and acceptance to Muslim women in the aftermath of the siege.

This very encouraging development was certainly something new. Perhaps, the humans are learning, after all.

We’ve been on holidays this week so it’s been difficult for me to really process what has happened in Paris with limited TV access. However, I did see people coming together and lighting candles and another hashtag emerged: “#Je suis Charlie”. While I don’t believe all those people loved the magazine itself, they supported free speech and not being shot for your opinion.

While hate tried to tear down these cities, love has triumphed. It really has.

Love.

Love. Photo: Rowena

But that doesn’t let us off the hook…humans or dogs.

I don’t have all the answers but if we perhaps start with the Golden Rule and treat others the way we would like to be treated, humans and dogs will both be learning new tricks and helping to spread  love throughout our aching world.

“For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Reach out and connect with somebody beyond your comfort zone. Share the incredible power of love.

Reach out and connect with somebody beyond your comfort zone.  Share the incredible power of love. Photo: Rowena

However, I’d just like to request one little furry exception to the Golden Rule…

Do I really have to be nice to cats?

This thing between cats and dogs goes way beyond me and that pesky cat next door. It’s in our blood…our genes. As long as there have been cats and dogs on this planet, it’s been war and that isn’t going to change any time soon.

Humph, this Golden Rule is more of a problem than I thought. It’s all very well to treat everyone you like the way you’d like to be treated but it’s quite a different story when it comes to your enemies. However, there can be no exceptions to the Golden Rule. It doesn’t work like that.

Humph. At this point, it’s very tempting to head back to my laboratory and stick to research. There’s such a gaping void between research and practice and I have no idea how to build a bridge. I might be smart and The Ball Fetching Champion of the Universe. However, being the change myself is just too hard.

Humph!

Perhaps, I’ll have to bring in an expert. I have heard about households where cats and dogs are family but there certainly aren’t any in my particular neck of the woods.

Yes, indeed. This is a great place to launch the next phase of my research.

Who knows, perhaps with a bit of training and some loving support, even I might just be able to love cats after all but I suspect that dogs will be living on the moon long before that happens.

Love & a fairly cautious wag of the tail,

Bilbo