Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Time

Easter is coming – this year at the same time for all Christians. I received already a lot of nice thoughts and warm wishes from friends and colleagues, as every year around this special moment. People are spreading around messages of peace and spiritual enlightening. And then go around killing lambs for the traditional religious feast.

I have always perceived Christmas as a time for joy and hope. Easter on the other hand I see as a time for introspection and self-evaluation, understanding our limits and accepting our limitations, making decisions about self-improvement. The week before Easter is especially important for Christians, being the commemoration of the terrible ordeal that Jesus went through in the last days before His death. The Resurrection, actually the very basis of a new religion, comes only after torture and pain. These days, TV channels all over the world are broadcasting a lot of movies and series inspired by biblical tales (Old and New Testament), which I feel is blending quite strange messages. On the one hand, they are spreading religious teaching like love, forgiveness, tolerance, kindness, but on the other hand they are brutally loaded with senseless blood-shedding, incestuous relations, power-driven killings, treacherous intrigues, sickness and poverty.

And then I start wondering where the legend ends and history begins. Legends are those exaggerated tales about heroes and their extraordinary accomplishments, with some seeds of original truth. The fact that they are transmitted verbally from generation to generation makes them more colorful and more distant from the actual facts with every century that passes by. But then… history is also just an interpreted version of the past. We call history that story which actually got “approved” in a very complex process of data collection (I wonder how many “eye witnesses” were involved in this in the good old times), negotiation with involved parties before writing and publishing (or do you really believe that anybody could write about a king as he / she pleased before the end of the XXth century?...), then re-writing and eventually re-interpreting facts from time to time, as appropriate for the generations that followed.

I remind you of this process, as we are used now to learning information from many different sources. One of the basic rules of professional journalism is to corroborate any information from more than one source, before going to print with it. But in the old ages there was often only one source available, and that source usually had some interest in the story. The new era of objective information and fast communication is just in diapers, while we still need to learn a lot more about the impact that it may have on our future. For the time being, we are just enjoying the thrill of knowing everything (or maybe the illusion of it?...) and want to get more every day. Few of us are actually wondering if this is good for our present or (even more important!) for our future.

We speak of business or economies overheating (growing faster than reasonably self-sustainable), but we do not stop and wonder: what about our brains, our bodies and our souls? Is it possible that we experience the same, related to the quantity of information that we get? How do we filter, how do we distinguish between truth and lie (even manipulation), how do we choose what to remember and what to forget, how do we rate what should influence our decisions and what should be ignored? In humans I believe this phenomenon is called ‘burn-out’, but it is more or less the same kind of growth beyond control. We absorb more and more information, we make more and more demands on our processing abilities, we feel like the time is compressing around us while we push our own capacities to the limits (and sometimes beyond that!). And then we feel disappointed and betrayed if we fail us.

Sometimes I feel like if somebody unleashed a big ugly monster, and then discovered it cannot be controlled. It reminds me of yet another history lesson - the one that teaches us that big civilizations have progressed until self-destruction. Unfortunately, the triggers of their demise are not clear. And even if they were, I believe every self-destruction was unique, just the “growth and destruction” pattern seems to be repetitive.

Anyway, I have divagated too much from the topic today. I will get back to the Easter season. I wonder who did this important choice for all mankind - to take out only the good lessons from such a complex chain of events as His death and the Resurrection. To tell this story in such a great way, that it got carried forward over centuries and millennia. I would dare to say that we could consider the road-trip of the Apostles as the most successful PR & Communication campaign ever.

There is a saying about unhappy ending of love-stories. It goes like this: there are at least three versions – his, hers and the truth. I would like to extend this to any perception of reality: there are at least three truths in any two-party situation – his, hers and the facts (of course there is no need to be a “he” and a “she” – just two persons). It is deeply engraved in the Christian teachings that the third version, that is not visible for the ones involved, is always visible to Him. He will confront each of us with this on the Judgment Day. Until then we are trapped in our own perception of good and wrong-doing, including our capacity to forgive and forget. Having said that, I really believe I would be in deep trouble if He is indeed a “he”, as it has become very clear to me that men and women have developed their perception function quite differently.

This special week before the Resurrection Day has brought along strange situations for me, that challenged quite strongly my capacity for forgiveness. That is why I found myself wanting to write something about forgiveness, in a rather unusual manner. I have to admit I have also a selfish target, which is to put some order into my thoughts and hopefully make a good decision. As I have written too much already here, I will talk about forgiveness separately, on my Romanian blog.

Here I will wrap up now some kind of message for this year’s Easter season. I usually give my readers positive messages and constructive advice, about how to become a better self and treat others kindly. This week I understood once again how big is this world and how many people are unhappily living in it. I also realized once again another thing: trying to make them all happy makes one lose precious time, especially if they enjoy very much their unhappiness. That same time you can allocate better - care for the loved ones, build things and create a better future for those people who can really appreciate it. The platinum rule teaches us not to force our perception of good on others, as they may not see it as good. We can hurt both them and ourself in this process. It is better to give up some fights, let go of some people, not fight longer than reasonably necessary against the flow. Sometimes we can get far away just by letting ourselves float along the stream and enjoy the ride.

I was planning to write about forgiveness in the context of the modern world. To ask you to make sure that your generosity is not interpreted as weakness or stupidity and therefore wrongly abused. If you are a gardener and forgive a rotten apple for spoiling three other healthy ones but do nothing about it, the (now) four rotten apples will sooner or later spoil the whole lot. If you however throw away the four rotten apples you may save the remaining healthy bunch. There is always a difficult choice to make between forgiveness and retaliation. It is the conflict between Christian teaching of forgiveness and Darwin’s theory of evolution, survival of the fittest. It is also a little blurry even in the Bible – when do you go for “an eye for an eye” or for “turn the other cheek”? I would say – depends on the context, target and strategy. At the end of the day, our decision lies also in our perception – of life and death, of right and wrong, of good and evil, of security and threat. For me is not so hard to turn the other cheek if I am the only one involved, as I always remember my mother saying – ‘the wise one gives in the first’. But then I tend to turn into a lioness when somebody hurts my loved ones or attacks “my pack”.

Therefore, I will conclude today’s thoughts by sharing with you three quotes in a certain order, which reminds me of most of the French dramas. They use to say ‘Fin’ (i.e. ‘The End’) while you still expect answers and watch the screen filled with anticipation for the next scene. It was quite frustrating when I was younger, but I started to appreciate it while getting older. It gives me the power to decide what happens next - search for possible endings, choose the one I like best. It brings the story closer to life’s untied ends.

Therefore, I hope you will enjoy these words, which were spoken by different people, all of them talking about forgiveness. Or not?...

It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend / William Blake, Jerusalem

It's far easier to forgive an enemy after you've got even with him / Olin Miller

Forgiveness is the sweetest revenge / Isaac Friedmann

May you enjoy healthy bodies, peaceful souls and joyful spirits – at Easter Time and always!

Georgina Popescu

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