Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Forgotten Community

Back in 1998 I wrote a piece called a "Dialogue on a Forgotten Community."  I tried re-writing it a while back from memory, but did not do a good job.  I thought it lost forever, but yesterday, whilst playing with the kids and talking about stories, I found it!  Here it is. I hope you enjoy it.

A Dialogue on a Forgotten Community.
A community, as defined by the American College Dictionary, is a "social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality." In this day and age we talk about the "global community", and although my reflection is not global, it is neither limited to local. I will be reflecting on a mobile community; a community I feel that is not always recognized as such and one that rarely involves itself in dialogue. This community is an aggressive and sometimes, violent community that would rather kill itself than communicate in a responsible fashion, often resorting to mindless, thoughtless, selfish and dangerous behavior. It is a rare occasion when a collaborative flow of meaningful dialogue occurs, and an exploration for truth happens.
On the road, copyright Simon Brooks, 2012
Each morning we rise and breakfast and make statements to ourselves about bettering our lot in life, about how we can improve ourselves as human beings and what we should be doing (even if we do not) to help the planet and fellow human beings. Then we get into our cars or trucks. The engine fires up, the coffee maybe in the mug holder and the radio is turned on. Here the conversations begin on the Community of the Road. This was the thought that came to me as I drove home from class, pondering on the reflections we had discussed.
Like much of life, we get some early instruction and head out on our own, making it up as we go, learning from mistakes and, therefore, experience. There are guides that we are given to read on how to use the Community of the Road, but it seems that we forget most of ft only after a few years. Our conversations begin with flashing lights at other vehicles that are in our way, we lean on our horns and yell at people and if all else fails we cut them up, if we can, at a later point. None of these techniques are in the instruction book other than as a list of things not-to-do.
I think that some of the problem is that within the cocoons of our vehicles we believe we are invincible and it would be inconceivable that we would be in the wrong, but we are. By opening a dialogue with our fellow community members we would find that life could be so much less stressful and more enjoyable. When folks need to merge onto freeways we can merge by allowing those entering the freeway to join us. Being one car behind will not kill us and it may even make us feel good helping someone else on their way. We are all going to the same place, further down the road. Vehicles have their own language that we, as the drivers, add to. By opening dialogue, using our indicators (or blinkers), we are letting people know where we want to go. There are no surprises if we communicate with our fellow travelers, no assumptions. When we know the person in front is taking a left, we know they are going to slow down and we can allow for that, but when someone slows down without letting us know why, we become frustrated. We see such actions as arrogance or stupidity and if you are like me, you will find stupidity intolerable. Just by waving people on, breaking early, making sure that your lights are working and blinking only when you want them to blink, displaying self mastery, we can create a better community using dialogue. Indicators are so easy to use and make life so much simpler.

 It is only laziness and greed that prevent us from being more courteous. Lazy, because we cannot be bothered to use the tools given to us to create a dialogue. Greedy, because we want to own the roads, or have them to ourselves. We cannot expect others to do what we ourselves do not. By mastering our own actions and reactions, we can show others how much better life can be in our Community of the Road. Lead by example. If people are let in when the traffic is heavy, they may start to do the same, creating a shared vision, one that would become stronger and more prolific. If more people were to use dialogue and not aggression to travel within the community, slowly our mental models would change, causing a chain reaction, albeit slow, around us. We could make better decisions, effecting our immediate environment, creating a balanced alignment within the community. If this is something we want, by setting examples, it can be made to happen. As a result, our community would become a pleasant and much safer place. By becoming a group, working as a team, we can strive for that same goal. Watching teams play in individualistic ways is not as satisfying as watching a team play. The soccer match between England and Argentina is a good example of that. England had some world class players performing really well as individuals, but Argentina, playing as a team, performed better and won (although on penalty goals). Had England used their individual skills as a team they may have won. By opening a dialogue of where we are going, and how we want to get there, we create awareness about us, allowing us to focus on reaching our goals in an efficient and conscientious way.

By using the dialogue available to vehicles, we can eliminate assumptions and disturbance; we can become aware of the necessities of our fellow community members, use energy in a more efficient manner and reach our goals in a safer and friendlier manner.
The writer at the time of writing!
Text copyright Simon Brooks, 2012.  Do not copy, duplicate, replicate in any manner or form.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Understanding History and what it means to be British!

Before the holidays took off I began a quest to find more Holiday stories from cultures other than my own.  I mulled over stories from faiths other than Christian.  I was raised with Grandparents who were mostly Christian Scientists, but in late Elementary School years attended Church of England for a while.  In my teens I explored other religions and faiths and I have kept reading about different cultures and their beliefs since then.  I have also been lucky enough to have known people whose faith has been tested beyond 'normal' circumstances and have retained their faith, or had it made all the stronger.  Religion can be a bit of a sticky wicket.  Some people proclaim their faith is the only right one and all others are corrupt, or heathen beliefs.  I once shared a flat in London with a born-again Baptist. He was told me the Catholics had it wrong and would burn in hell for what they thought was right. That was his belief.  The truth is that until we die, none of us will really know - have the solid  fact before us (a fire pit beneath our feet, wings on our backs, or fighting in Valhalla with other great warriors) - if there is indeed anything after death other than nothing!  Reading old myths, legends and folk stories I have seen many religious (and other) bigotries appear, sometimes because of who was transposing, or translating the story, or because of the 'norms' of the day - what was acceptable then and not now.

Being British has some drawbacks.  Hard to imagine, but it is true!  The biggest for me is that as a Nation, Britain colonized the world.  The sun never sets on Britain, or at one time in history it did not.  It was a while back and I should move on, but that history comes with a lot of baggage and for me a heightened awareness of what Britannia did - England even.  England ripped apart Scotland. England caused some major problems in Ireland which may have taken over 350 years to 'fix'.  Britain did serious damage on the African continent, and in India, and what we did to the indigenous people of America was appalling. I know other countries did similar things, but.  With all of this came exploitation, and... and the suppression of indigenous beliefs.

So when I come to tell tales from other cultures I carry that sack on my back. Especially around the Winter Holidays.  We could begin hte winter Holidays with the Eid Al Adha on the 14th and 15th of October and run until the Chinese New Year which is the Year of the Snake and is celebrated on the 10th and 11th of February. Somewhere I wanted to find some great stories I could be faithful to and tell from deep inside. And not be too down - I was going to be performing for kids as well as grown ups.  I looked at some Jewish tales, mainly the story of Hanukkah and the folklore of the driedel.  But I did not feel right telling this story as a non-Jew. Then I remembered a wonderful story written by Eric Kimmel called  Zigazak!: A Magical Hanukkah Night.    Well, because this was an original story I could not with good conscience tell it without Eric's permission. So I emailed him via his website and he said: YES.  A firned of mine Tim Van Egmond told me (and others) about a Japanese story. And I had my own stories to draw from.  So over the Holiday period, I was able to tell a story about a couple of Hanukkah goblins (thanks so much Eric), the story of King Wenceslaus from Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic), a Japanese story about New Year and why the seas are filled with salt (thanks Tim), the Winter Cherries (a great Welsh tale set in the Arthurian 'romances' pantheon), and a true story about the truce the soldiers created on the Western Front of World War I, 1914.  (Over the holidays I found another true story about a German pilot who escorted a British bomber to safety!)  It was a nice mix of tales and religions and all of them contained the best part of humankind - our humanity!  Every story I read and told contained our humanity, our ability to make the right things happen, to help others. And every story has it's own little miracle in it.

Oh we ain't got a barrel of money
Maybe we're ragged and funny
But we'll travel along singin' our song side by side

Don't know what's comin' tomorrow
Maybe it's trouble and sorrow
But we'll travel the road sharin' our load side by side

So with all of that said, I wish that you all have a great New Year, and that every day you find a little miracle and that you can share it with our fellow human beings, no matter what race, colour, creed, faith, or non-faith they are.