The Art of Forgiveness and Friendship

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I would like to start this journey with a quote by Ritu Ghadourey about forgiving others for hurtful actions: A broken friendship that is mended through forgiveness can be even stronger than it once was. 

As I entered the US for the first time since 2015, I noticed right away how deeply divided the country was (and still is)- more so than when Barack Obama was president. The first impression of this was how the media was involving itself. Once toted as the main source of information to allow us to think about the events, talk about it and even take action, America’s media today  is making the decisions for us, without even allowing us to think of the reasons for the actions taken by President Trump, his members of the Oval Office and the special investigations councillor Robert Mueller, who is trying to dig dirt and undermine the president. With each character coming on screen to muckrake on both sides, one has to wonder if this is just another Hollywood film that is screaming to be booed and jeered. And with each repetitive claim by the president that there was no collusion between him and Russian president Vladimir Putin, how many times will he say it (even when jumping up and down on the trampoline) until we all figure out that he’s indeed a liar and a crook.

We do know however, that despite my detestation of watching Trump and all his cronies on TV while having breakfast, we do have one variant that is working against us: With each action committed on both sides of the aisle, regardless of hate crimes, bashing media outlets, making false statements and the like, we are hurting ourselves and others, to a point where we may never talk to our neighbors, friends and family members ever again. Our belief in the media is deceiving ouselves and not allowing us time to think about the issues at hand.  And our actions towards others is making it difficult for us to come to terms with the people we hurt the most.

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Inspite of this however, I learned most recently that even the most painful actions done onto others can be forgiven, if one is willing to reach out and ask for it. In some cases, it can forge friendships that are better than the last one. I have a couple examples which show that forgiveness can be sought and new friendships created.

A few months ago, a friend of mine from Arizona, named Calvin, was approached by a former high school classmate named Jared after a 20+ year absence. Both of them were playing American football at a high school in Tucson; yet Calvin, who was too skinny to play lineman, was bullied by Jared and several other players, who were three times his size and thought he was gay.  One day, Jared had the cheek to pee in Calvin’s sports locker. Upset that he was being treated unfairly and was not getting enough support by the coaches, Calvin quit the team and eventually changed schools, where he ran in cross country and excelled in fine arts in Casa Grande, graduating with honors and eventually moving onto college at the University of Minnesota and later into teaching in Osnabrück in Germany.  We met while I was an exchange student and we shared some stories of our time playing football in high school. We both hated the sport as we were “bench-warmers,” which was equally as degrading as being bullied. Jared reached out to him one day in May after Calvin wrote of his experiences of being bullied on facebook, in response to an increase of cyberbullying at his former high school in Tucson. Jared was principal there and had to sit a person, who was robbing others of lunch money down, and tell him what he did to Calvin. He looked him up and reconnected. Then after reading his article posted on facebook, Jared wrote a long letter of apology to Calvin explaining that his lack of self-confidence was the catalyst to doing what he did to him. In response to the letter, Calvin forgave him, explaining that what was done was wrong but it’s nothing compared to what is going on in the present. 

In the present means the days of social networking, cyberbullying, grooming, happy-slapping and the like. Let’s put it this way, as much as I was bullied in high school 25 years ago, I was thankful that the internet did not exist in its present-day form. Otherwise, …….

Calvin’s suggestion to Jared was the same as offering a good starting point: “Together, we can set examples for other kids to understand that what is being done to others, even online, is wrong and not tolerated.”  In other words, the willingness to make peace and work together to ensure that no one else gets bullied  were two giant steps to forging a good friendship and they have since been on good terms. 

Yet sometimes people can hurt each other to a point where they basically break off all ties, even if one was unaware of the actions committed. Sometimes such actions can be the result of the “My way is the highway” mentality. Others have to do with cultural and personal differences between the two people. Normally when ties are cut like that, then it is too late and even impossible to make amends.

That is unless one of them reaches out to ask for peace. This happened to another friend in Kiel, a while back and to this day, he’s figuring out the reason why and finding ways to reforge a friendship with this girl. Her name was Karin and she and Nick were attending college in Berlin in 2014. She was a very nice girl, as Nick described her- a deeply devoted Christian, kind but had that magic that got Nick interested. They had been working together on a project when they suddenly “butted heads” during a dance at one of the assembly halls.  How this happened was not explained but attempts to reconcile even online failed, and they broke off all contact after the project was finished, but not before havig hurt each other verbally, resulting in after-effects that were lasting for months after the break-off. Nick was moving on with his life when Karin suddenly re-appeared on his facebook page, offering peace to him. In response, Nick replied that under the conditions that we’d meet and talk about it would that be considered. Two hours of deep conversations brought forth forgiveness and establishing the building blocks for a restart, despite them having partners and full-time jobs.  Yet this example came with a lot of strings attached, which was the fact that she was not ready to be friends just yet; she needed time as the healer though they are still communcating to this day but not on facebook. Nick is hoping that it will happen someday as it would give them a chance to chat online about their jobs and families and just be friends. Let’s hope that their road to friendship is a smooth one there.

But looking at both examples, one has to ask ourselves how much damage has the United States done to its people and ts allies. The country has alienated its long-time allies of Europe and Canada and embraced Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea, although with the third example one can agree with re-establishing ties with Kim to a certain degree. The US has alienated its own people while our president is watching families and friends fight over politics, like it was a wrestling match. And even the media outlets are equally bad with each one having their own “Mean” Gene Okerlund and their sets of wrestlers trash-talking to the audience. No wonder why we have a combination of George Orwell’s 1984 and the Spanish Civil War all at once, when American society is conditioned to think one way or another. To sum up the situation, we’re living in a society where the media has control of the lives of Americans, and Americans can choose who to befriend and who to dump, based on which political alliance they are in, thus polarizing ourselves, our friends, family members and our neighboring countries. A sad devlopment and one that could destroy the fabric of democracy should the trend continue.

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Yet inspite of all this, I have learned to separate politics from friendships and family to avoid any inner-strife. But most importantly, to forgive others for their mistakes. Yet it will be a difficult drive to make amends with the  people we hurt the most. While some allies like Canada and Great Britain will be ready to forgive right away,  others like France and Germany will be even more difficult because of the damage inflicted already. But the most difficult will be the ability to trust each other and be willing to work together. That includes rebuilding the trust between the government, the media and the people. I guess it is similar to the example with Karin and Nick. If one person offers peace then it is because the other has the characteristics that is liked (and blessed in Christian terms) and that the person wants to reforge a better relationship than before so that they can work out the bigger problems they are facing. And we have more than enough to go around.

After the third day of listening to politics at a hotel in Pittsburgh, I decided to tune it out because it was a waste of time and energy. I decided that if people want to know more about our situation in Europe in comparison with the US that we would be truthful about it, but ensure that we are not enforcing our opinions onto them but to get them to understand the situation from a neutral person’s point of view.  At the same time, however, I’m taking an advice that was based on the stories that I just presented with Jared and Calvin on one end, but also with Nick and Karin on the other. If we hurt the ones that care for us, regardless of difference and opinion, we apologize and forgive. Forgiveness is free and can forge better friendships than in the past.  And this is what is needed in this day and age as we have bigger issues to handle and little time left to get them done.

And with that comes a pair of quotes to end this topic on how to reforge a friendship through forgiveness:

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Forgiveness is the best form of love. It takes a strong person to say sorry, yet it takes a stronger person to forgive. 

 

Fl Fi USA

 

 

Disclaimer: While these two examples are true stories, for the purpose of protecting their identities, the names of the people mentioned as well as the places where the stories took place have been altered. 

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Christmas Market Activities

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The Christmas markets in Germany have a lot to offer for tourists and readers alike. Also for students learning English as a Foreign Language is this topic useful for learning new vocabulary and grammar- in this case, present simple vs. present continuous. Here are some activities that are useful for the classroom, regardless of setting.

Pre-reading exercises:

  1. With a partner, make a list of items you think would be found at a German Christmas market and why. At least three items, one of which has to be a Christmas gift, another a food item and the last one is a hot beverage. The more items, the better. 🙂
  2. Take some time to guess at the following 12 questions about Germany’s Christmas market by clicking here.

https://www.boombox.com/widget/quiz/fi9xdWl6emVzLzMyNTkxMw

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Reading:

Read the following text below about the Medieval Christmas market in Erfurt and answer the questions that follow.

Adventsmarkt at Erfurt Cathedral

For the first time ever, the medieval Christmas Market in Erfurt is taking place at the Cathedral Erfurter Dom. From 29 November to 30 December people have an opportunity to visit the market and witness German culture during the Middle Ages by walking behind the Cathedral and seeing the stands that sell goods from that period. The reason for the move is due to a lack of space combined with strict regulations at their previous location, at Wenigermarkt. City officials claim that they don’t have enough space to house the high number of stands. People that enjoy the sounds of bagpipes and watching sword fights between two knights, while drinking a hot mead,  are welcoming the city’s decision with open arms, and many are volunteering to help with the set up. Currently, construction crews are laying the foundations for the market behind the Cathedral. Signs and other information about the market, which is now being called the Adventsmarkt, are posted online. City officials hope that the market attracts at least half of the 2.2 million people that visit the main market every year. That market is located in front of the church at the market square Domplatz.

Source: Thüringer Allgemein Zeitung, 14 October, 2016. 

 

Questions:

  1. After having the  market at _______________, this year’s Medieval Christmas market is taking place at _______________.
  2. Where exactly at Domplatz is the market taking place?
  3. Why is the market relocating there? List two main reasons.
  4. How many people do retailers at the Medieval Christmas market hope to attract?
  5. What is typical of the Medieval Christmas market in Erfurt?  Find three items in the text.

Vocabulary Challenge:    What can a person find at a typical Medieval Christmas Market? Choose from the vocabulary list below. Which ones are mentioned in the text above?

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Grammar: 

Look for the verb patterns in the text. What differences can you see here?

The rules for simple vs. continuous and the usage of time markers can be found here.  As pottery is also a handcrafted item one can find at the Christmas market, including the Medieval one, some exercises and quiz can be found in the link, too. 🙂

Activity 1:

Look at the following sentences below, identify the time marker and the verb tense- present simple or present continuous

  1. The Christmas Market takes place every year during the time of Advent.
  2. At the moment, the mayor is cutting the stollen to open the market.
  3. People always love drinking mulled wine (Glühwein).
  4. Right now, the dancers are performing a music piece on stage.
  5. The Christmas carolers are singing in front of the Pyramid in a moment! Hurry!
  6. Traditionally, the brass group sings Christmas songs at the market at 5:00pm every day.
  7. We are eating Flammlachs (fried salmon) today at the booth next to the stage.
  8. Now the kids are riding the carousel.
  9. I’m trying a hot mead at the Medieval Market with some friends this evening.
  10. People mostly eat hot dishes, Langosch (fried batter) and bratwursts at the markets.

 

Activity 2. 

Using the verb in the bracket, complete each sentence in present continuous form.

  1. Harry:  Marv, what ____ you ________? (do)
  2. Marv: I _______________rum with wine, oranges and spices. (mix)
  3. Harry: You _______not_____________ about making that punch again, are you? (think)
  4. Marv: Oh yeah, Harry. I _________________  my recipe! (specialize) I___________ in some cinnamon schnaps, sherry and a few cherries. (put)
  5. Harry: So instead of helping me collect money from kids for the Salvation Army, you ______________ a toxic with a potential of knocking people out cold? (make)
  6. Marv: C’mon Harry, you know we _____________ beggar’s money with that, right? (earn)
  7. Harry: Better that than me ______________ you getting punched! (watch)
  8. Marv: Quiet, Harry! Look, there are two people. They _______________ us for a cup! (ask)
  9. Harry: I ____not _______ at this! (look) I ________ back to the booth. (go)
  10. Marv _____________ his punch to the young couple. (serve)
  11. As they __________ the punch (drink), the man tells the woman “I’m loving you!

The woman becomes furious, punches him out and walks off!

 

Question for the forum:  What is wrong with the man’s comment: “I’m loving you?” ❤

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Activity 3.

The following sentences are incorrect. Look at them and rewrite them, using the correct verb tense. Please note that the time markers are correct and must not be changed.

  1. The Christmas market in Rothenburg ob der Tauber is taking place every year from the end of November to the fourth Advent.

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2. Hundreds of thousands of people are visiting the walls of this Medieval community at this time, annually.

________________________________________________________________

3. The Night Watchman greets us this evening for a tour through the town.

_________________________________________________________________

4. From March to New Year’s Day, he is guiding people and telling them stories about the town’s history.

_________________________________________________________________

5. At the moment, Sara and Leif eat the town’s well-known snowballs, made of cookie dough.

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6. The Christmas Museum is opening every day including Christmas Day.

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7. In front of the Doll Museum, a little girl currently cleans one of the Käthe Wohlfahrt dolls found on the window sill.

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8. Right now, the Night Watchman tells a group of children to stop singing “Ring Around the Rosy” because it is being a curse to the town.

_________________________________________________________________

9. The sun rises soon, but the Watchman still talks about the town’s history.

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10. As the stores open, the people now sleep in front of the church.

_________________________________________________________________

 

Activity 4. Group Exercise-  How to create your own Christmas market

Imagine you are the mayor of a small community and for the first time ever, you are hosting a Christmas market. How would you plan this? What would you sell? Check out this article as well as some suggestions and instructions from your teacher to help you. In the end, you should have a presentation of no more than two minutes where you will propose your Christmas market and your peers will help you.

Note: Good for groups of 2-4, pending on the class size. 

 

 

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The Christmas markets are proven to be very popular at this time of year. This includes the following Christmas markets that were used for these exercises which are highly recommended to visit when visiting Germany next holiday season:

Dresden and Nuremberg (for Activity 1)

Flensburg (for Activity 2)

Rothenburg ob der Tauber (for Activity 3)

Heilsberg near Rudolstadt (for Activity 4)

 

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ANS to the Vocabulary Challenge on the Medieval Christmas Market:  Hot mead, swords, blacksmith, pastor, knight, glass ornaments, bag pipes, handcrafted knives, broom-maker, beer, smoked meat.

 

 

Genre of the Week: The Christmas I Remember Best by Eda Leshan

We all have our own interpretations of Christmas and what is important to us. Many people think that the best kind of gifts are the ones that are modern, with a lot of technical features and which we can toy around with for hours on end. There are many though that prefer something personal, or local if the loved one is away most of the time. I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of that lately as I travel to see some Christmas markets and other places and as a rule, buy something local or handmade which will never be found in any shopping mall elsewhere. 😉 However what happens if you wish for something very badly, like an exclusive doll house or baby carriage found in a Sears magazine,  only to find that upon opening the gift on Christmas Day you find a generic version, or something much different than you expected. How would you react?  Keep in mind that the reactions of the parents or loved one definitely plays a role, for they have their intentions and logic behind giving you the gift that is different. Nine times out of ten, as we will see in an article by Eda LeShan (* 1922- t 2002), the reason is simple: We don’t have the money to get you this, but we love you very much and want you to have the best Christmas ever.  🙂

LeShan was a writer, TV show host, educator and counselor who wrote several books about childhood development and psychology during her 79 years of life. An advocate of children’s rights, LeShan believed that the person’s true character is not only based on the education that is given during childhood but also based on growing up in a healthy family and in livable environmental surroundings. Her piece “The Christmas I Remember Best,” published in December 1982, takes her back to the time of the Great Depression and her parents’ desire to make Christmas the most enjoyable for her. This is despite the fact that both her parents lost their jobs because of the Great Crash of 1929, which sparked the worst crisis in American history, ending with America’s entry into World War II, 12 years later.

The one-page piece sends a clear message to all parents- there’s nothing more powerful than love and family. All other things are just that- things that are replaceable. The former, not. Here’s something to think about as you read this piece:

The work was discovered during a trip to Lanesboro in Minnesota in 2005 and I’ve used it for English classes ever since. It is very useful for discussion or for any activities pertaining to English as a Foreign Language or even Literature.

Another piece bearing the same title was discovered by accident upon research for this work. This one was written by Sherilyn Clarke Stinson in 2011 and can be found in the website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A link to that piece is available here as well as the Files’ facebook page.

 

 

Don’t Plan for 2020; Plan for the Now and the Future

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Dear fellow students, former students, friends and those loving a chat with an American expatriate,

Over the years, many of you have taken a keen interest in knowing about my country and its culture, including those who either have been in Minnesota, where I was born and raised, or are planning to go there. I had many who have spent time in Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as in New Ulm, Fargo, Worthington, Winona, Duluth  and Rochester (and the Bluffs Region). I even had a former student who was an exchange student at a high school in Waseca, located between Albert Lea and Minneapolis and is where I came into the world almost 40 years ago. Many people have been asking me what my stance is on this year’s elections and despite my voting for my candidate of choice whether I would be happy with the result.

I’ve decided to put this to rest before I utter a word about it to my next class- and waste a couple valuable sessions in the process, because it is a library’s worth of explaining how messed up the United States of America has become, especially since the Elections of 2001 and the infamous hanging chads.

Last year while preparing a presentation for a lecture with a couple colleagues, one of them had a cheek to predict the end of the world and that anything we do is fruitless at this point. At that time, we didn’t have the debates but had prominent people vying for candidacy as the next President of the US by visiting regions and communities. We didn’t have a below-the-belt style of locker talk as we had in these Elections. Despite her being a devout Christian- a Lutheran- I played down her comment as absurd and totally unrealistic.

I can no longer say that when I read the results and after watching the debates, while draining the keg at the same time. In fact, if the opportunity arises, I would still like to ask her whether she holds this opinion and if so, why.  In response to what I saw in the Elections, as well as everyone else, it is as follows:

The role of the President of the United States is the most unwanted, underappreciated job of any jobs in the country. To get to where you are, you have to undergo the same procedures as Homer Simpson did when he joined the Stonecutter’s Society- getting spanked with a stick and getting humiliated in the process. This is what we saw with Clinton’s e-mail scandals together with the Benghazi affair on one end, and Trump’s Aryan rhetoric during his campaign speeches, sexual harassment lawsuits and ruined businesses. Once the ass is swollen, the media exploits you like a soap opera show and turn every debate into a wrestling match regardless of gender and who is refereeing- er moderating the debate.

With every debate I’ve watched, even over a few rounds of Flensburger Flotilla and wine, the first impression I had was any tag-team match between Velvet McIntryre and Princess Victoria vs. the Fabulous Moulah and Wendi Richter would trump the verbal spats the two candidates had. And these matches of the 1980s were real and not scripted, genuine and not choreographed, tough knuckled and not pussy-like.  And you wonder why professional wrestling of the Eighties was one of the best products produced on TV.

And now what? As a new member and leader of The Stonecutter’s Society known as the President of the United States, with a swollen ass and a bruised ego, you have a country to lead, many angry people to calm down and countries to impress. My prediction is simple: you will never make it past one year. And even if you did, the United States of America will never be the same as it was before the elections took place. It was becoming a stranger during the days since 2000. With the results of the Elections and the writing on the wall, the country where I grew up, with its pride in history, culture, landscapes and even literature, with friends and family alike, has become a total stranger. It used to be an example to follow, it is now divided like Spain prior to the Civil War (1936-39), conquered by hate and segregation similar to Germany under Hitler, an anarchic state where ideas are not welcome and selling one’s soul to Satan in order to get ahead is the norm. In four years, we could see the country as either an authoritarian state or one that is on the brink of a Nebuchadnezzar-style uprising and raid.

And what will become of the republic that we have followed for over 227 years?  A faded memory.

But it is not too late. Our votes were not fully wasted. We have a democracy but it is the one which we the people can run. While we may have voted for the lesser of two evils in the elections, it is only we who can make the changes. Why wait until the next elections in 2020 when we can make a difference? After all, with all the hatred we expressed to our candidates and the people who supported them, it is time that we take action to handle the problems the US has on its home front, let alone with other countries. I really doubt the winner will hold to his promises, nor do I think Washington can afford to rollback policies of the Reagan era, let alone prepare for the 2020 elections. We have pressing issues to deal with. And the list is long: The environment, immigration, improving foreign relations, helping war-torn countries rebuild, rebooting health care, restructuring the education system, improving the infrastructure, and so on. No president can handle this alone in four years, if he survives it. I don’t think anybody in Washington can handle it, but bickering and bitching will be a waste of time. We’ve tried two different policies since 2000 and neither one worked. I doubt the next style of policies will be any better. Therefore it is up to us, we as an international community to handle these problems head-on.

Did I use the words international community?  You bet I did.

We are no longer the people of the United States of America. We have no association between the Republicans and Democrats. We come from different backgrounds, but have the same problems as everyone else in the world. Instead of relying on politics as a way to providing comfort, we should go out there, see how things work in other countries and regions and see if we can work them into our system and our lives. We should implement the ideas we ourselves have and ensure everyone can benefit from it. We should create agreements that will benefit everyone and not the select few. We should pray for and help those who are unloved, underappreciated, narrow-minded, helpless- strangers, friends and family alike- and open the doors for God to help and bless us whenever we and they need it. We should read the Bible, Quran and other religious works and understand why the power of work and prayer works. We should learn about the other person and include him/her in our society. If fire and war hits, we should go and help them rebuild. After all, we all have a purpose in life. It is how we handle our lives that is the hardest to do, especially if we make decisions that can alter our course for the good.

While the next president will make many promises and break them, it is up to us to make and carry out solutions to the problems that we are facing, for it is we who cannot afford to wait until 2020. It is we who cannot afford to watch events to unfold. It is we who cannot afford to hide behind people whose purposes are to hurt and destroy other lives for their own gain. I know that there are more than enough unloving people out there, but we need to take action to persuade these people that we the people are doing this for their good. Believe it or not, the person predicting the apocalypse at the beginning of this article, I found her such a quote some weeks later that said just that:

We need to love the unloving, take action to help others in need and let the world under one God decide our fate. The more good we do, the better place we’ll have for generations to come and the more pride we have in ourselves that we accomplished something our president had previously promised but never carried out.

The future is now, not in 2020. We have to shine now, because we are now in uncharted territory. How events will unfold will depend on our actions and not that of others. So don’t wait, act!

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I could say more but in case you want my personal opinion about the elections between Donald Trump and Hilliary Clinton, and the state the US is in, this is my honest to God truth. We can talk about how the political system works and other issues to be resolved. However, sometimes the truth can be hard to swallow and we need time to digest it before we can decide what to do next. In my opinion, I will keep teaching and talking about my culture in comparison to Germany, continue to write my column pieces, exploit the sides we don’t read and talk about, and help those who wish to have a better life. After all, that is my sole reason for being here on this planet.

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Genre of the Week: The Beauty of What We’ll Never Know by Pico Iyer

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Take a few moments and ask yourselves these questions:

  1. What is beauty in your own terms? Is it what you look like, what you see, what you hear or feel, or is it based on a personal experience that you’ve encountered?
  2. What moment in your life was considered the most life-altering and how did this experience change you in a positive sense?
  3. What place (or person) would you like to see before you die? What about an activity or event?

These questions may be simple from the outside but have an important meaning when looking at them and ourselves more closely. We live in a society where we have a choice between two paths: one where we settle down, have a family, job, house and a set of friends to hang out with, talking about politics and sports and contributing to the good of the community. There is the other path, where you explore new places and experience new things that help you think about the beauty of the world and what it has to offer.

One can jump to conclusions and assume that Germans are wanderers of the world, travelling four or five times a year and exploring new areas, and Americans love to stay put and enjoy the local scenery- especially when looking at the younger generations starting with the ones born in the mid-1970s. However, when speaking from experience, I would go as far as saying that each of us have the urge of being a wandering family- having a partner and a child or two, while exploring both new places as well as our own surroundings.  It doesn’t matter what previous knowledge we have- if we have the urge to do something, we do it for a reason- for trying something new, experiencing the unexpected and lastly, being open about it.

And this is why we are looking at this Genre of the Week, entitled The Beauty We’ll Never Know, a TED Summit talk by Pico Iyer. Born of parents of Indian origin, who were both scholars of their time, Iyer was a Buddhist, born in Oxford, England in 1957,  and after having studied literature at the colleges of Eton, Oxford and Harvard, he started his career as a journalist at Time Magazine in 1982, before moving to Japan in 1992, having been married to a Japanese wife, Hiroko and settled down there, writing full time about life and his travels, while teaching on the side. He has written several British essays as well as those about Indian life, but has written several novels, including the famed Video Night in Khatmandu. He has done a lot of TED talks in the past five years about life and how we should take it for granted, as society has changed to a point where knowledge alone will not help in us understanding the process.

In this talk, he doesn’t talk about his experiences in Japan per se. That is only a side-dish. However, his theme of the talk deals with the way we should take in life and not worry about settling down and letting things happen, for after all, we learn something new every day, including all of the tiniest aspects that we don’t understand as a mainstream societal audience. Furthermore, there is beauty in everything we see, even if we don’t see it right away.   So have a look at the talk and think about the following aspects:

  1. Look at the environment around you and see it from outside the box. How beautiful is it? What aspects do you love about it? What would you like to do to make the environment even better?
  2. What things in life would you like to explore before you die? Could be things, people, places or the like.
  3. What holds you back from going out there boldly and learning something new?

Remember: The best knowledge is what we DON’T know.

For more on his work, please check out his webpage with details on his life as a British author of Indian descent, living in Japan and making the most of life. Pico has spoken many times at TED summits on many subjects. You can find this and other talks here.

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Don’t Swaggartize Our Facebook Posts With Your Politics!

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To begin my commentary, I would like to start off with an excerpt from the book of Proverbs 28:25-6:

A greedy man stirs up dissention, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper. He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.

 

One should perhaps add in the book of Proverbs that one who blindly follows a liar with a potential of interrupting conversations for political promotion is more of a fool than those who are self-righteous and believes not in Jesus but his own tuition.  Since the nominations of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for US president (even though Jill Stein and Gary Johnson should also be added to the mix), the era of poli-bashing has taken hold on the American landscape. At the family table, fathers and sons are fighting from different political poles, putting others in the middle, like it happened during the Cold War with a divided Germany. Locals in different countries are asking us American expatriates what we think of Donald Trump (which many of us have compared him to Adolf Hitler). Friends are unfriending or even blocking others on facebook because of political opinions, which I think is pathetic and shows me what the late Günter Grass once stated: “If you have 500 friends on facebook, you really have no friends.”

 

Point taken!

 

But there is another trend in social networking which has become an annoying trend: A friend posts a comment about an event on facebook only to have a person on his/her friends list market politics and bash the candidate with his own post, when the story posted on facebook is anything BUT relevant.  Take this example that I experienced  most recently:

 

I post a commentary about me switching bike dealers after they overpriced us (family and me) for bike repairs and inspections, which included overcharging for the repairs on my end but not charging for the inspection on my daughter’s bike when we ordered a part, but giving us the “Oh by the way, you have to pay for the part AND the inspection.” treatment, when the part arrived- in other words, withholding information without informing the customer in advance!   This is in addition to bad service we (as a family) had been receiving prior to that. We basically posted by saying “Have a nice life, your competitor is around the corner!”

 

In response, one of the people in my network had the cheek to market politics by saying:

 

And that’s how capitalism works!! The customers decide who survives and who fails. Now imagine it was a government entity that treated you like that. What is your recourse, especially if you have no other option than to deal with them (i.e. DMV). I’m sure your complaints about one or more government union employees would be handled in a timely and efficient manner… 

 

 

Furious, I had to reply in a fashion similar to Walter Sobjeck in the Big Lebowski which went along these lines:

 

 

You’re a child who loves to enter a cinema in the middle of a religious film, not knowing which actors are playing Jesus Christ, Pontius Pilate, Joseph, Mary and the Three Wise Men, let alone when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead!

 

In response, another conservative replied with this comment:

 

The government is ALWAYS the issue….they set the prices for everything….you should have gotten into healthcare a few years ago….the money is already spent.

 

And my response:

 

 The government is NOT the issue here. We’re talking about the Geoff Schaffer approach to customer service, which is always making the customer happy (no matter what) and if so, they will come back. This bike shop was a family owned business until they expanded in 2010. Since then, they’ve thrown away the concept of honesty and family friendliest and have started doing the Trump approach which is customer selection- a blow to winning any customers.

 

(The name Geoff Schaffer was used as a replacement of the manager of a restaurant in Iowa whom I worked for during the summer breaks from college,  because of privacy reasons, by the way.)

 

Not to worry though, many people in my network have dealt with similar issues, regardless of which political side they are on. But the point is that the intrusion of personal posts for political gain to provoke a political argument can be best compared to the preaching of televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, whose religious commercialization influenced the lives of many Americans and Evangelicals during the 1970s and 80s. In fact, as a child growing up in Minnesota, I can remember his TV shows and commercials dominating the airwaves, even though we had four key channels, including public television, with every fourth household having cable TV.  His preaching from that bygone era can be seen today, like in this video below:

 

 

Many people loved him, yet there were many who thought he was as annoying as the people who have intruded on people’s privacy on facebook, to a point where his defamation flocking would await him, like in this infamous “I’ve sinned….” sermon:

 

His confession revealed two things that are worth noting in this article:

 

  1. The value of the sermon or lecture spoken unto by one person has to equal one’s actions. One cannot have a double standard like Mr. Swaggart has, but also one’s lecture or sermon has to include hands-on experiences.

 

  1. If one enforces onto others, then one has a problem in life which cannot be dealt with alone but through help.

 

The second one has nothing to do with politics and who is at fault but one where a person’s life is not what it should. Sometimes these people are hanging on to the nostalgia that had existed 30-40 years ago and cannot adapt to the changes that we are facing even as we speak. There are some who have missed one train too many in their lives and are struggling to salvage what is left of their lives. This includes pivotal years where decisions made can have an impact on a person’s life (that is a separate article for next time).  And there are some people whose children have disappointed them in their development- some justified and some not. Their attempts of molding them into their liking fails and they become the black sheep in the family. The same applies to friends and peers, whom they knew in high school but have become strangers since then.

 

All of them have one thing in mind, they have at one time in their lives listened or watch a Jimmy Swaggart sermon and learned a great deal about getting involved in other people’s lives by invading them and impose their ideas . And even though Swaggart has produced some great sermons, the people are following the directions the wrong way.

 

Yes, people like you!

 

I could point my fingers at Swaggart for his religious “morals”, but it would be the same as deferring responsibility for all the personal problems in life onto Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  But Swaggart’s rhetoric and tactics have given some people the wrong idea of getting others involved- preach on the outside while hiding from the real problems on the inside.  Sometimes too much of a good thing is not good at all, especially when infringing on topics with their own political agenda, almost all of which are irrelevant.

 

So knock it off! Think before posting your political comments on other’s facebook posts. Because one day, you may receive a comment by saying:

 

You’re out of your element!

 

 

And if Jimmy Swaggart is still preaching these days, let us hope he preaches about respecting people’s rights and preferences over politics before the US Presidential Elections. After all he has taught us on how to swaggartize others, he owes us that sermon at least. Only then will he be forgiven of all his sins.

 

Amen!

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Germans and Demonstrations: What We Want is Color; What We Don’t Want is a Union

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Protest, the right to express our opinion, our objection, our own dismay to something that does not fit. Derived from the Latin word meaning to testify for something, protests are designed to deliver a message, whether it was objecting to a decision of a local mayor to demolish a historic landmark in favor of a shopping mall, demanding a change in government because of a corrupt leader, putting pressure on companies to increase wages and improve working conditions or as seen in the pics here, rejecting certain people because of their threat to their societal infrastructure.

Germany leads the way in the number of protests and their variety of themes. No matter when the politicians speak, no matter if it is spontaneous or planned, no matter how many policemen are involved, and no matter how extreme, when a demonstration takes place, the entire city is shut down and isolated from the rest of the world. The demonstrations take place in many forms. We have the May Day demonstrations and with that, also demonstrations by workers’ unions, demanding better pay and working conditions. This form occurs most frequently, no matter where. Then we have the most popular, which are the environmental demonstrations, featuring sit-ins, blocking and chanting for no nuclear storage facilities, international trade deals harming the environment and no pollution, period.

Then we have the most current, which are the demonstrations involving refugees and right-wing extremism.

For more on that and to see pictures of a typical protest, click here to continue……

 

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