Sunday, September 30, 2012

Quote of the week #7

What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

William Shakespeare

Today’s topic is all about names.
Certainly, a rose would be the same if it had another name, although it is the same in German and French, each with a different pronunciation. Anyway, I don’t want to explain the tasks of language here.
What I am more interested in is the names of persons. It is only recently that I have realized that I have an unordinary relation to names, you might even say it’s strange. 
Apparently, the name of another person is something very intimate for me. Of course, this is illogical, as everyone has a name and everyone can call you by that name.
When I meet people and make friends with them, they very soon address me with my name all of the time. I have realized that I actually only call my closest friends with their names and that it takes me a lot of time to address someone with his/her name in real life, but when I do it, I like to do it and mention their names very often.  I don’t think at all it’s inappropriate when people say my name, I think I even like it, it’s just that I don’t do it. For example, someone asks me “[name], do you want to go the cinema tonight?” If I ask that question, I only use the name when it’s a close friend. Maybe I’m crazy.

However, it made me think about names and their importance for us.
At least for me, names indicate a lot of intimacy.

So, what’s in a name?
What does our name mean for us? Is it just a word? Is it us? After all, we identify ourselves with that name.
Would you like to choose another name for yourself? Would that make a difference? How important is the name you choose for your children?

Here’s another quote:
In real life, unlike in Shakespeare, the sweetness of the rose depends upon the name it bears. Things are not only what they are. They are, in very important respects, what they seem to be.
Hubert H. Humphrey

Things are what they seem to be, but does the name determine what we seem to be? Or does our personality and our behaviour have an influence on how our name seems to be?

What is the cause and what is the result or is it reciprocal in a way? Is there any connection at all?
Would you feel different about yourself if you had a completely different name, would other people expect someone differently? How much of your name determines what you seem to be?

Or, ultimately, does it only depend on who uses your name? Does it not make any difference what your name actually is but what people make out of it?
For that purpose, a last quote. It’s one that I really like and it is from a little child called Billy who was asked to define love. Can you believe he was just four years old?

When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.

Did you ever realize it makes a difference? I did. There are people who pronounce my name in a way I don’t like and there are other people that make it sound valuable.

They make your name sound unique.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Parents - What do we owe them?

“After all I’ve done for you…”. A popular sentence and I am sure some of us have heard this sentence from our parents. But what have they really done for us?

The reason for us existing in this world is that at some point of their lives our parents decided to have a baby. In some cases, it might not have been a planned child, however the decision was made to bring up the child. They raised and funded us for years.
Does that mean we owe them our lives? Do we have a debt to pay for the rest of our lives?
The common opinion is that we are in their debt because they raised and loved us regardless of what we did. Having such parents you should definitely be thankful.
But what if they didn’t?

Certainly, we should be grateful and respect them to a certain extent. But do we really have to accept all of their statements? Do we have to obey and love them unconditionally?

Let me tell a story of a little girl, just a small insight.
She’s sitting in her room, thinking of how she can make her mommy proud of her, but she can’t imagine anything else than she has already tried.
Christmas is coming and she’s writing a wish list. All she writes is this: I wish that my mommy loves me. Then she hides the note in a drawer, never showing it to anyone.
A few hours later, her mother tells her she hates her more than anything else and she wishes she would never have been born. She tells her she is a slut and the worst child one could imagine and that she doesn't even deserve to be alive. She’s yelling at her for about an hour and strangling her for a couple of seconds, getting caught up in her contempt.  The reason for this is that the girl told her it was cold in her room whereas her mother thought it to be very warm and she hates too much warmth.

The girl tries to be strong, as she always does, she hides her tears until she is back in her room. There, her brother is already waiting for her, naked, as if he wanted to proof her being a slut. She screams, but nobody would ever listen.
I can see no love or respect here. There are so many cases of domestic violence and they shouldn't be tolerated. Unfortunately, parents do not always know what is best for their children, despite this so often mentioned argument.

Can you imagine how long it takes these children to recover any self-esteem?

So why do we still keep in touch with them? Why do we not break off all contact after having been grown up? 
In spite of all that happened, we still feel a certain liability, a duty or a guilt towards our parents.
Society tells us we should be grateful. After all they have done for you, you don't want to come home for Christmas? How can you be so selfish?
Above all, we can't erase family ties. It's still our family, after all.

When our parents betray our trust, abuse us, intentionally hurt us, do we still have to be grateful?  Parents should love their children, they should show them their love, but what if they don’t? What do we owe them?
When they wrong us, we might be willing to forgive them more easily than others, but injustice stays injustice.  

Basically, we should respect all human beings. But I don’t think we owe them our unconditional respect and gratefulness.
Respect should be mutual.
Of course, it is a good thing to respect our parents, but shouldn’t they pay us some respect too? Once we are adults, we make our own decisions and naturally sometimes (or often) we disagree with other people, which also include our parents. We have a right to form our own opinions and our parents should respect this. They should accept us as autonomous individuals with possibly different views.

Most of all, they should love and support their children when they are little, providing a basis for the respect and appreciation to be mutual.

If our family bond hurts us more than it does anything else, it is maybe time to loosen the ties and forget about the predetermined obligations.
After all, blood relationship doesn’t necessarily heal everything, it doesn’t convert injustice into fairness.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Quote of the week #6

Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.

Gloria Steinem


Today, I happened to listen to a song that always reminds me of hope for the future. It was played during our official graduation from school. We had to walk on a red carpet, me and my two best friends together and afterwards we were given our certificates. During that walk the song was played. I remember exactly how I felt that day. We were exceedingly happy to have passed our final exams with good grades. It was our last day as pupils and it felt like our whole future lay ahead of us. After 12 years of school, it was the threshold to a new life. We had so many dreams and hopes. In that moment, we felt as if we could reach anything, as if we could change the world. I know that it was totally exaggerated and unrealistic and it might even seem stupid, but this is what we felt, or it was what I felt. Of course, there is nothing much extraordinary about graduating from school, but for us it was the way to our future, it was like a magic moment. Whenever I listen to that song, it reminds me of that hopeful, exciting feeling and I begin to believe that there is still a lot I can accomplish. It makes me remember my dreams and hopes.

Is it of any good to have dreams? Is it starry-eyed, naïve? Would it be better to not dream at all, to be more realistic?

Is dreaming a way to define and achieve our goals or does it prevent us from living our life?

In my opinion, it is good to have dreams and, as in the quote, it is even a form of planning.
Even if they never come true, at least they give us hope for the future, they make the present a better place. They make us hope for a better future and in some cases they make us do something for this future. Most of the time I am down-to-earth, but in my heart I will never stop having some of those dreams. In my opinion, we should have dreams that are not too unrealistic and then we should try and make these dreams come true.

Do you still have dreams? Did some of your dreams come true when you grew older? Or did you give up your dreams?
Do we change when we grow older? Do we see things in a more realistic way, do our views change?

Well, I think I am still young and I don’t know whether my point of view will change when I am older. Anyway, I don’t feel like that all of the time. There are a lot of days I feel completely different, but I am grateful for those hopeful days.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Would you break the law to save a loved one?

Recently, I stumbled upon this question.

It instantly made me remember a workshop at university concerning cultural differences. The teacher, a woman from England, who has already been travelling to a lot of countries doing her workshops, asked us the following question: If you knew your friend was driving way too fast with his car and the police asked you about it, would you lie and not reveal your friend’s fault? We all agreed we would in order to protect our friend, although he has been doing something wrong. Then she changed the question. It’s the same situation as before, but this time your friend killed someone because of driving too fast. This time, no one wanted to lie to the police.
Apparently, this is typical for Germans. The woman told us that whenever she asks this question in another country, there are usually a few people that would still cover up for their friends. In Germany, rules and laws are usually more important. In my opinion, you can’t reduce it all to cultural differences, but I think there is a tendency due to cultural backgrounds.

Anyway, should we put laws or allegiance to a friend on the first place? If you knew your friend was doing something wrong, would you cover up for him? And does it make a difference whether there are any bad consequences due to his behaviour?

So far to this question which isn’t exactly the same as the one in the headline.

Would you break the law to save a loved one? This is also a question we discussed at university and I remember the following problem. I think there is even a popular theory behind it, but I don’t really remember the name of it. It was about stages of moral development.
So, let’s say your wife/your husband is deathly sick and there is exactly one medicament that can save him/her. There is also only one pharmacist that sells this drug, BUT to a price that is absolutely exorbitant and way more than you can afford. There is no chance you will get this money soon enough. The only way to get the drug would be to steal it. Would you do it and why/why not?

Let me give you a few hints.
On a very easy basis, should you not steal it because you might get into prison or should you steal it because your wife/husband is an important person to you? Should you steal it regardless of the importance of this person to you, because we should always try to help others? Should you steal it because the right to life is more important than property right? Or should you act according to law, because after all it secures our all individual rights against those who disobey them? Or should you steal the drug because the dignity of human life is above all other values? Should you not steal it because theft should never be the basis for any universal rule of action (as in the categorical imperative according to Kant)?

Finally, in your opinion, is there a difference between what you should do and what you actually would do?

I would love to hear some opinions, thoughts, ideas or answers to any or all of these questions.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Quote of the week #5

There is beauty in truth, even if it's painful. Those who lie, twist life so that it looks tasty to the lazy, brilliant to the ignorant, and powerful to the weak. But lies only strengthen our defects. They don't teach anything, help anything, fix anything or cure anything. Nor do they develop one's character, one's mind, one's heart or one's soul.

José N. Harris

What is it that we are all lying, all the time? I don’t want to make an exception for myself here, all I say is that I am trying to avoid lies, but I am sure I have lied many times in my life, as we all have.  
It seems as if people want to be lied to, they enjoy the lies, it seems to me as if there was an unspoken agreement that says we should lie whenever it is possible.

We lie all the time, regardless of what we are talking about. We even lie to ourselves and sometimes we even believe these lies. It seems as if a lie becomes the truth, once it is told often enough.
I sincerely try to tell the truth, or rather I tell what I think to be the truth, as no one can ever be sure what the truth is. However, I have made the experience that the truth is not what people want to hear. Nonetheless, I believe in being honest, it is of value for me.
I really don’t want to say that I am better than anyone, I am not, but this is my point of view and I believe in it. I trust everyone until there is a reason that proves this person should not be trusted, I believe in the good in people and I believe that people tell me the truth, because I would tell them the truth, especially when it comes to friends. Maybe I am naïve, but then be it so. However, once I know about people telling me significant lies, it is hard for me to forgive, it is hard for me to trust them ever again. Honesty and confidence in someone belong together, I trust because I have faith in my friends, but once the honesty is lost, the faith is lost, too.

What is the point of inventing great stories about something that could be told in one little candid sentence? I understand that people do lie sometimes in order to not hurt someone. But if we are totally honest, most of the lies we tell are told because it’s easier than telling the truth, because it seems to be more comforting to ourselves.
First, there are those lies we all agree upon. It’s when someone asks you how you are and you tell him you are fine. You meet people in the street you have not seen for many years, you are both busy and you both agree silently that you do not want to hear of all the problems of the other person.

Then there are the big lies, lies that are told because it is easier to tell them, because we just don’t want to tell the truth, lies told in order to intentionally deceive someone. Lies that we tell because we want to appear better, greater, more successful than we are.  Those are the lies some people even seem to believe for themselves. Besides, there are also lies that are created to make people believe in something that doesn’t exist and the creator knows about their falseness but tells them anyway, lies that are told in order to achieve something, lies that can even be told to a whole state.
Finally, there are even false statements that are told for no apparent reason. They are absolutely unnecessary and they are the reason making me believe that we are all just big liars, that we enjoy the untruth. Why do we tell these lies? Is it because we are afraid of being hurt if we were totally honest? Do we even recognize anymore that we are being dishonest? Is there really an unspoken agreement in not telling the truth? Why can’t we all try to be honest?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Children - between cruelty and honesty

A lot of people say that children can be extremely cruel. Indeed, it is a terrible thing when children are bullying one another. Often there is one child that is “different” and therefore it is being bullied. I think these bullies don’t even know what harm they inflict upon their victim. These children may be marked for the rest of their lives.  
But who should we blame? Is it the parents’ fault, because they have failed in their education? Is it society’s fault? Or is there no one else to blame but the children?

I do not know the answer to that question.

At the same time, children are usually such honest little beings. I have assisted as a coach for some years and I have made so many wonderful experiences there. You soon learn that you are not only the children’s coach, but also their attachment figure, their role model, their friend and sometimes even their psychologist. They tell you about school, their family, their friends, their problems and what makes them happy. It is amazing how much responsibility you already have for them, although just seeing them at most once or twice a week for two hours.
Of course, you need to keep some distance though.

Even their parents talk to you about their children’s problems and want some advice. Considering that I am not a mother and that I had so many problems with my own family, it was actually a strange thing to do.
Do you know that big, sincere happy smile that only a child can give you? And do you know these things only children seem to recognize? There were actually two children that told me I had pretty teeth. Who looks at the teeth of another person? Moreover, I think my teeth are just very ordinary. But it made me laugh, it was such a sweet compliment. I particularly appreciate compliments from children, because they usually just say what they see and you can be sure that they don’t tell you because they expect something in return.

I moved away from my home town a year ago, so I wasn’t able to coach them anymore. I had to promise to visit them regularly and one little girl even cried. It touched my heart, they were so sweet.
Can there be anything more heart-warming than little children that are all excited and happy, just because you visit them? They are lovely little creatures.

Anyway, what I wanted to get at is that children are often so much more honest than adults. But at the same time they can be so cruel. But are they really? Aren’t adults crueler sometimes? There are so much terrible things in this world that only adults are able to commit. Children are extremely straightforward and just tell what is in their mind, which can be a good but also a bad thing. In contrast, adults can be very furtive, which isn’t a good thing either, or is it worse?

On the other hand, when I don’t like someone I try to avoid him but not to bully him. That is maybe something that only adults do.

So are they cruel or just honest? Or are they both? And what about us? Are we better, after all?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Quote of the week #4

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

Joseph Campbell

One of my biggest weaknesses is probably that I am a really bad organizer and planner, at least when it comes to my own life. When I ought to do something for others, it is very important for me to be reliable, but when I should plan something in my own life, I tend to be a bit chaotic and spontaneous. As I have explained in some earlier post, I never watch the weather forecasts and just go outside to see how the weather is. That is basically the way I have handled a lot of things in my life. During the last year in particular, a lot of things have changed in my life, I have developed personally and I started making some plans in my life though.
I have noticed that most people feel comfortable in planning everything and that a lot of people don’t like changes of plans. I do understand the reasons for it and I can also see the advantages of planning.

But I still wonder if it is better to schedule every detail in our lives or to take things as they come.
I think one has to distinguish here between things that should be planned and things that we have no influence on.

As I have mentioned before, I used to plan hardly anything, although I have always waited for the future to come, so that I could move away and start my own life. This might seem contradictory, but as I always just had this big plan, I didn’t plan the details that came before.
Nevertheless, I have learned that you should have some plans in your life and that it is nearly impossible to continue with such an attitude that I had, once you are a grown up and once you are fully responsible for your life.

But is it really necessary to plan every detail and most important, is it possible? In my opinion, it absolutely isn’t.
At first, there are things like preparing for a test, for example an exam at university. Obviously, you should know how much time it takes to learn the different topics and then try to learn it continuously and not keep it all for the last day, so scheduling here is necessary.

Secondly, there are the big plans in life. Admittedly, I have to say that I still don’t have concrete plans here. I rather like to see it as options you have in life and ways you would like to continue. For example, I would like to have my own little family one day, but can I really be sure that I will ever find the partner for this? It is also my dream to visit as many places of this world as possible. Furthermore, I want to graduate from university and find a job that I like. But I have no idea about the details yet.
You always have to keep in mind that there is no way of foreseeing the future and things usually don’t turn out as we have expected them to do, so these are rather not my plans but some of my aims in life. At the same time, I can see that it is important to know your options and to have some plans in mind, so that you can try to reach the best possible outcome. Moreover, a good organization is often necessary and helpful to reach your goals.

Besides, it is a great and important thing to have some visions and dreams in life.
So we should have some plans for the important big things in life, but we also have to consider changes and developments, so that we can modify our plans and the way we could reach our goals.

But still I see no point in planning every detail of my life. You can’t plan the little things you have no influence on. There are so much wonderful things to explore every day and I like to keep all options open.
In fact, starting this blog was a very spontaneous decision and when the idea arose in my mind I immediately implemented it. Of course, some planning would have been useful. But on the other hand, without being spontaneous I would never have had this idea.

This is just my personal point of view and I am aware of its great imperfectness. However, as my journey just began, I am sure there will be more development.

Finally, this whole text didn’t completely refer to the quote. But I think it speaks for itself.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Are we all basically selfish?

Imagine you were a boy in a big and quite house. Your parents are not at home, but your sister is. Great, you’ll wait for her to come out of her room, after all she must come out some time, so that you can abuse her, yes, sexually. Don’t worry, she won’t tell your parents, they wouldn’t believe her. You are mommy’s little boy, she’ll do anything for you. If your sister tries to tell your mother, you can still cry and tell her how bad your sister is, so that she is going to be punished. Anyway, you have been doing this for years, there really is no need to worry. Your sister is crying? So what?
You can’t imagine doing this? I hope so.

During the last few years I have realized something that I find terrible. There are people on this earth that are extremely selfish, people that don’t care at all about other people’s feelings.

The saddest part of it is that these people get away with what they do too often. Too often they are more successful in what they do than people that are honest and try to help others.
I have been thinking about this a lot and I really wonder whether one has to be selfish to get along in this world. Do you have to be unscrupulous, unfair and devilishly selfish?
Is this the only right way to be successful in whatever you do?
Are most people actually selfish at heart and is it good or even necessary to be so? Is it the easiest way?
However the easiest way doesn’t have to be a good way. But who determines what is good and what is bad? Isn’t moral just a necessary construct in our society?
And what are the consequences of such a behavior? Do these people really feel comfortable with themselves?

You could also say it in a more positive way. Is it a good thing to take care of yourself in the first place?
Should we be selfish, because we should love ourselves?
After all, someone has to look after you and maybe there is no one else. Isn’t it a good thing to pursue your dreams? It is, but what about the dreams of other people, what about their feelings, their hopes, their rights?
Is our society really so self-centered?

Are we all born selfish? From the biological point of view, we want to reproduce. Maybe it is in our genes, so that we are all basically selfish. But I think this explanation is too easy and I am not a biologist anyway.
Is helping others just a selfish way to feel good?
But then again, what about love and I mean true love? Shouldn't it be totally selfless?

What about generosity and altruism?
What about the human values we have? We should be able to find a balance between loving ourselves and caring for others.

I am asking myself all those questions, but in the end the answer doesn’t make a difference anyway. I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable.
So is it better to help others? For what good?

I don’t even know how to explain. I am not a very religious person, or rather I don’t believe in some specific church, so this is not the reason. I just feel we should help each other. Our world could be a much more wonderful place if everybody cared for others. Of course, there are a lot of people that do and I am really happy to know some.

I remember donating some money when I was about 15 years old. My brother just laughed at me, he couldn’t understand how one could be so stupid to give away their money. He even admitted that all he cared about was himself.
I have now a godson in Africa that I support with some money, although I don’t have much of it either and I work hard for it during semester break. I didn’t tell anybody, because I know people wouldn’t understand, especially not my family. Isn’t it terrible that one has to feel ashamed because of doing something good for others?
I know that for this child the money is much more worth than for me and I love that I can contribute to his chance of going to school.  Moreover, he is just a little child and it really isn’t his fault that his parents were not able to take care of him. So why not support him when I have the chance to?

Why not always help others when we have the chance to do so? And I don’t mean by donating money, but in our everyday life. You could brighten someone’s day or even more, and isn’t this totally worth it?


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Quote of the week #3

An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees only the red stoplight... the truly wise person is colorblind.

Albert Schweitzer

There are a lot of controversial quotes on this topic and all of them contain something true, but I like this one the most.

Whenever someone asks me whether I am rather an optimist or a pessimist I am not sure what to answer.
What is the best way to see the world?

Is it better to be an optimist or is it easier to be a pessimist? Does it make any difference for our lives, for how many goals we achieve? In my opinion, it does. How we live our lives and how many of our dreams are going to be fulfilled… that depends a lot on our attitude.
I have realized that whenever I dream high, I have higher goals and whenever my goals were higher I did actually achieve a lot more. And to have these dreams results from hoping for the best. Of course, the aims we have in life should still be realistic.

Pessimism is supposed to prevent us from disappointments.  But can you actually enjoy life while seeing the worst part everywhere? Can you even appreciate the little good moments that are so important in life?
Of course, you have to consider the problems in life. But in my opinion, being pessimistic means to not want to change the bad things but to expect them everywhere and take them as they are, when one should rather look for a solution or a way to improve things.

The problem about being optimistic is that one can be disappointed a lot of times, because there will always be bad things in life. There is a great risk that your hopes will not be fulfilled, at least not all of them. But I think an optimist will have more fun in life and he is able to enjoy the good things.
But is always being optimistic even possible, given that there is so much injustice in this world?

Maybe, staying realistic, hoping for the best and knowing about the worst is the best way.

After all, our life is an adventure and it always contains ups and downs and to know the value of the ups there must be the downs.

Finally, a little note out of my life, which could also be seen in a wider context.

A lot of people are greatly interested in daily weather forecasts. I always try to stay informed about everything and I am interested in a lot of things, but the weather report certainly doesn’t belong to these. There are a lot of things that can be changed, even if this seems to be impossible. But one thing that I am sure I have no influence on is tomorrow’s weather and I certainly can’t change anything by watching the weather forecasts in TV. To know about this, I just wait for tomorrow, then go outside and see how the weather is. Call me crazy, but this is how I live.
Moreover, I think there is no need to be either optimistic or pessimistic about tomorrow’s weather. When it is raining, take an umbrella with you, if you don’t have one with you, it’s all right, you are not going to die because of getting wet. As long as there is no hurricane, there is no need to worry. Besides, there are always advantages of rain.

And, you know, the sun will shine again for sure.