Making the whole world your friend                                                  Edited

“The verb ‘care’ is a medicinal one. I care, I feel concern for the other. The caregiver, through their care for the other, expands the narrow limits of the self. The caregiver becomes multiple. The prison of an entrenched “I” crumbles. You breathe differently.” Fotini Tsalikoglou, professor of clinical psychology and writer

“If you don’t dive you will never know your limits. Without diving, there is no emerging. If you don’t see the bottom, you won’t be able to appreciate the fresh air that will enter your lungs again…” Tasoula Eptakoil (journalist and writer) “Treasures are hidden in the depths, as an island lullaby from Tasoula’s home place says…”. Fotini Tsalikoglou

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new lands but seeing with new eyes.” Marcel Proust, French novelist

“What if I meet some people who don’t like me or don’t like my behavior?” asked the Little Dragon. “Then you must go your own way,” replied the Great Panda. Better to lose them than yourself.” James Norbury, Big Panda and Tiny Dragon

“It is to go to the balcony. Imagine you’re negotiating on a stage and part of your mind goes to a mental and emotional balcony, a place of calm, perspective, and self-control where you can stay focused on your interests, keep your eyes on the prize.” William Ury, writer and mediator

Today’s post includes a link to a talk by Tara Brach, a poem by Eavan Boland, a link to an article by Dr Todd Kashdan, two books for children and seven new drawings from me. I’ve used pen and paper, coloured pencils, Japanese silkscreened paper, thread and needle.

1. I’ve borrowed the title of today’s post from Tara Brach’s weekly podcast with the same title []. Tara Brach is a clinical psychologist and Buddhist meditation teacher. Here she talks about the value of friendliness through an evolutionary lens, about the conditions that predispose a society to be more or less friendly, about friendliness towards strangers and ourselves. She says it is interesting to look at the societies we live in, to see how much friendliness there is, and to consider what might predispose a society to be friendly or to “carry a gun”. Societies have varying degrees of safety or threat. Some factors to consider is how rigidly divided the population is, what historical traumas have not been released, the level of inequity and hierarchy, and so on.

Referring to biologists Dian Fossey and George Schaller’s work with gorillas she says “They entered the territory of these gentle giants and they didn’t carry a gun, with an attitude of friendliness, respect with warmth and the gorillas weren’t threatened…. And as we can sense if we have a gun…. threatening aggression in some way… mistrusting, if we’re judging… it blocks the possibility of connection…” Tara Brach finally invites us to contemplate what kind of world we would have if we centered on friendliness.

2. Recently I’ve been reading poems by Eavan Boland and I’m sharing one of these poems that I really like. Boland was a poet, professor, feminist, historian, woman, mother and wife. Her childhood in Britain, and elsewhere, the Irish emigration and the experiences of those away from the motherland, her experiences as a female, identity, are all topics that informed her work. She has addressed the difficulties related to being a ‘woman poet’. She wrote that “It was like there was a magnetic opposition between the two concepts…” When she became a mother she said she: “felt the powerful necessity of honouring that experience in language, in poetry…..” and that “That subject matter wasn’t really sanctioned at that time in Irish poetry – it was thought of as merely domestic, or even less than that, and so I had to find my own way.”

In her later work, Boland continues to place her life experiences at the centre of her poems, including the personal impact of her time away from Ireland. In 2015 she published a poetry collection, A Woman Without a Country, which she claims is a selection “dedicated to those who lost a country, not by history or inheritance, but through a series of questions to which they could find no answer.” Boland has stated that “National identity is complicated by many things. Mainly I think by who had access to it, and who doesn’t.”  She has also said that “…. there is a real difference between history and the past…. I think many, many women in different societies think of themselves as living in the past rather than in history. It’s because of that, and because of my own family history, that this sequence of poems came about.”

The Emigrant Irish

Here the poet reflects on the sad fact that the many people who were forced to emigrate were soon forgotten like discarded old oil lamps no longer in use or of value.

Like oil lamps, we put them out the back — / of our houses, of our minds. We had lights / better than, newer than and then / a time came, this time and now /
we need them. Their dread, makeshift example:

they would have thrived on our necessities.
What they survived we could not even live.
By their lights now it is time to
imagine how they stood there, what they stood with,
that their possessions may become our power:
Cardboard. Iron. Their hardships parceled in them.
Patience. Fortitude. Long-suffering
in the bruise-colored dusk of the New World.

And all the old songs. And nothing to lose.

  1. An article in Dr Todd Kashdan’s newsletter with the title: On the difference between you and criminals

One of the examples he uses is the breaking of road laws by a great number of drivers….

He writes: “We Are All Criminals. As other people receive punishments in terms of fines, suspended licenses, and prison sentences for breaking road laws, you escaped scrutiny. Luck determined the outcome. The value of bringing luck to the forefront of the criminal justice system is an installation of compassion, mercy, and forgiveness…”

4. Two books for children I picked up this week at the local book shops.

Mrs. / Ma’am Democracy [Η κυρά Δημοκρατία] is written by Constantina Armeniakou to help children understand what we celebrate in Greece on the 17th of November and to introduce the idea of democracy.

Two short extracts from the book:

“Ma’am Democracy does not want to be a leader who commands everything.She doesn’t want to decide on her own.She doesn’t want to do as she pleases.She opens her big ears and listens to everyone’s ideas, because as she says: TOGETHER, TOGETHER, WE ARE ALWAYS STRONGER.”

“Ma’am Ria** (Dictatorship) has – as she desired – all the power… She hangs signs with orders everywhere: It is forbidden for children to shout! No secrets! Joy, celebrations, festivals are prohibited! It is forbidden to speak your opinion!…  And whoever does not agree goes to prison.”

**Ria is the ending of the word dictatorship in Greek [Ρία – Δικτακτορία]

Bee and Me by Alison Jay explains the truth of humans’ interdependence with animals and their belonging to nature in a way that children can understand. The creator of the book tells a personal story of how she helped a bee fly again and she suggests ways for children to reconnect with nature and help the natural environment.



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