Shadow of the Day: A Tribute to Chester Bennington of Linkin Park

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Where have all the rockers gone? Our idols whom we’ve followed faithfully and shown our support for them and their songs sincer our days in high school are no longer with us. Those who had plenty of years of life left in them decided to cut it short. Drug abuse, family problems, taxes and the law, the paparrazi and the media chased them from the mike (microphone), erased their abilities to create and export their songs, causing them to disappear without a trace.

But with one question: why?

After losing Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots), and Chris Cornell (Soundgarten) among many gift musicians, we’ve lost another singer in Chester Bennington from Linkin Park.

And he was only 41 when he hung himself.

A father of six children, Chester and other members founded Linkin Park in 1996 and gave alternative rock a new face with a mixture of rap, electronic rock, metal and lyrics that looked at the domestic issues that he and others faced in life. Being a member of Generation X, this generation served as the bridge between the Baby-boomer generation- which grew up on platinum records, Vietnam, sex-drugs-and rock and roll, as well as Billy Joel- and the younger generations of today, who are self-absorbed but self conscience, want to experience everything but are “Holly-go-lightlies” eating breakfast at Tiffany’s, and are well-informed but digital natives spending time buried in their Smartphones. It was also the same generation that has suffered from tumultuous times, having survived two major financial crises, 9/11/2001, and rapid changes to our own environment, while being sandwiched between the two generations, not having a chance to live the dreams we wanted to, working to make ends meet and not even thinking about retirement.  All of these aspects, which resulted in the fight to find one’s identity and deal with all the personal issues in life were the themes of the songs he and Linkin Park produced in the almost 20 years the band has been together.

One More Night was the last album released by the band before Bennington’s death, having been in stores since May of this year. However, if there is one song that best describes his legacy, it is this one, Shadow of the Day, which was released in 2007 from the album Minutes to Midnight.  Produced with keyboards and guitars, the song reflects on a person’s life and the need to move on. It’s walking into the sunset honoring a person and his work. Yet at the same time, it also means the rise of the next sun and the start of a new day with a new sheet of paper to draw or write about.  This song definitely reflects on Chester’s life, leaving us with questions of why it had to end the way it did, when he left a legacy as one of the best singers in his time. It does leave a question of what happens next, and who will be able to fill in his shoes, just like we have to with our other heroes who had followed before that.

Especially when the sun rises again…….

 

 

Our condolences to members of Linkin Park and the family of Chester Bennington on this unexpected loss of a great singer, who left us with songs we will listen to for years to come, and a legacy that will be difficult to outdo. God bless you……

 

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Look, Listen, and Learn

Author’s Note: As the Files turns five in a couple months, some throwbacks will be featured for readers to enjoy and think about. This is one of the first articles published in 2010, dealing with friendship over feindschaft, interculture over ignorance, peace and love over hate and war. This also ties in with my very first visit to Flensburg and the region that year. Enjoy! 🙂 

Biking on a trail going along the Baltic Sea Coast, I had to put away my thoughts and fears that were affecting my everyday life and embrace the unknown. I had never been up to the Baltic Sea for a long time, and the area I was visiting- Flensburg, Sondernburg, northern Germany, and southern Denmark- was untouched until I got off the train at the station and explored the region that I hadn’t seen before. The first thing I did was get to know the people up there, the culture, and the surroundings. I looked, I listened, and I learned. It started with a trip down the beaten and rutted trail that snaked its way through the forest, after crossing the wooden bridge into Denmark north of Wassersleben. The various jumps up and down the hill, the sound the wind breezing in from the sea, and the multiple shades of green and brown are all that occupies me opens up new doors to the things I’ve never heard and seen before. However, the dangers have to be figured into the equation: The trail was rutted, rocky, and really run down. It had pine trees placed in and along the road, and the down hill ride was filled with the unknown. I looked, I listened, and I learned.  By the time I ended up in Sondernhafen (Danish is Sondernhav) enjoying Europe’s finest hotdog and Danish ice cream at Anne’s Hot Dog stand, I had mastered 15 km of rugged terrain and gathered some images that were worth taking with me. I tried some Danish delicatessen, listened to the good humor of the Danes and learned about the long-standing relationship that they had with the Germans, that consisting of love and hate, trials and tribulations, toil and tears, and division and unity. Both sides had their differences that had to be settled through military conflict- among other things the war of 1864 between the then Prussians and the Danish kingdom which included a lop-sided Prussian victory at Dubel (near Sondernburg). There was of course the battle over Flensburg and who possesses it as both sides laid claim to it until 1951 when it was considered a border town for both the Danes and the Germans. This was in addition to World War II and Hitler’s quest for breathing room. But today- they live in peaceful co-existence for one reason and one reason only: because they looked, they listened, and they learned. They looked at the benefits of coexistence, they listened to each other, and they listened to each other.

Leaving that as is for another time, I took this experience with me and re-entered reality- a reality that is filled with multicultural diversity but it is the target of xenophobia, cleansing, and pure hatred. This multicultural diversity does not necessarily have to do with the place of origin or ethnical, religious, or cultural backgrounds. It can also focus on family tradition, socio-economical backgrounds, and even the preference of a certain group disregarding politics, themes worth talking about, or even sexuality.  Each of us has its own set of values, thinking, and ideal world that we feel comfortable with. The problem with that is we are being sounded out, played down, browned off by factors that don’t want us to be who we are, let alone share our views with others. Through the actions of these factors, consisting of harassment, intimidation, and even verbal or physical assaults on our identities,  we are vulnerable to a change that is against our nature mainly because the factors don’t look at us, listen to us, and learn from us. It is no wonder why so many people take their own lives and those with them- because they feel that they don’t belong to society and need to express their frustration to the rest of society.

When I read about an 18 year old taking his own life because he was gay and therefore was cyber-bullied, or a 17 year old storming a school to pelt others with bullets before providing his own head with one, it makes me ask myself, why are these people doing this. Like us, they had a right to live and share their experiences with others without being ashamed of it. But the people who bullied them to a point of suicide did this because they were afraid of seeing them in their world. These are the people who are careless because they don’t look at the people for who they are, listen to them and how their lives developed the way they were, and learn from that experience and perhaps can relate to them. By being wreckless, ignorant and fearful, what happens to the victim actually comes back to haunt them. It’s like travelling along that rutted path through the forest, that I mentioned earlier- the careless and faster you bike, the more likely that you will create a very nasty fall that will cause injuries (some serious pending on the degree).  If you look at the incidents that has happened over the past decade: Littleton in 1999, Erfurt in 2002, Cold Springs in 2005, Red Lake Falls in 2007, Virginia Tech in 2008, Ansbach and Winnenden in 2009, and now a slew of suicides that has been happening over the last six months, including the aforementioned cyberbullying that resulted in a suicide in Massachusetts, they all follow the same pattern.

So why don’t we all be careful with what we say or do with other people? Is it necessary to be wreckless and take action without thinking of the consequences? And what is wrong with embracing other people and cultures? It’s free and priceless. You learn more about them and make yourself a better person at the same time. You become more popular to the community because of your openess, tolerance, and acceptance of other people and their views on life. And the most valuable experience from all this is you may end up befriending the person whom you wanted to bully to begin with.  It’s very easy to do. One just has to look, listen, and learn.

I would like to close with some food for thought, looking at this topic from a historian’s point of view. If you look at the picture at the end of this entry, you’ll see a fort that was built at Dubel in 1864 as a fortress to fend off the advancing Prussians and protect neighboring Sondernburg. While the defense was not successful and the Danes lost the war, both sides 87 years later realized that there was no point in wasting lives and resources not only in fighting each other but also erecting memorials comemorating the battles, so they took the cheapest and easiest way out and built a bridge connecting the two cultures and embraced each other. They didn’t care about their backgrounds or their differences, and it’s understandable why. We spend more money, resources, and nerves on conflicts and the memorials commemorating them than we do when we spend the few precious free minutes of our lives to say hi to another person and get to know him/her. And the benefits of just a few minutes to learn from the person far outweigh that of ignoring or even bullyiing them. So instead of spending that money on defending ourselves against people who don’t fit in society why not build a bridge for them and do what we should be doing in the first place- look, listen, and learn.

And the file closes with the pics worth taking with you. Until next time, happy trails until we meet again.

Photo taken by Jason Smith in May, 2010

Fort Dubel near Sondernburg- the source of the conflict between the Danes and the Germans in 1864 and the symbol of division and the fear.

SOLUTION: BUILD A BRIDGE AND OPEN UP!

Photo taken by Jason Smith in May, 2010

FAQ: This bridge, built in 1926 did serve as a symbol of unity between Germany and Denmark. Up until the Schengen Agreement in 1995, the bridge was guarded by the patrolmen on both sides, who maintained peace free of conflict, and people had to present their passports before crossing. Since then people can bike across freely and the patrolmen’s house on the Danish side is all that remains.

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In School in Germany: Teachers and Burn-Out Syndrome

Goethe Gymnasium in Flensburg, taken from the Südermarkt. Photo taken in 2011
Goethe Gymnasium in Flensburg, taken from the Südermarkt. Photo taken in 2011

To start out this entry, here is a pop quiz for you to try:

Choose the situation where a person is NOT burned out and why?

SITUATION A:  Tom has been teaching third graders for 15 years at a school in Cleveland, Ohio. His preference is working with kids with serious social issues, such as drug addiction, uncontrollable behaviors and aggression towards others, just to name a few. Yet one day, he submits his letter of resignation out of the blue. Reason: He had spent more time testing the kids and evaluating them than he had ever had time to create various activities, resulting in him being detached from his teaching duties and his private life but at the same time, doing work similar to a robot. He blames the Ohio State Legislature for these tests and the budget cuts that have affected the state school system.

SITUATION B: Katie teaches sixth grade music at a school in Madison, Wisconsin. She also has obligations as an organist and a choir director. Yet the last three years, she experienced a loss of energy, insomnia and a sense of negative energy towards her work that in the end, all she could do is recommend to others not to take up a career. When she resigns from her post, she is replaced by three people who shared her duties. She is now a substitute teacher but despite loving the job, she is looking for something different.

SITUATION C: Susan teaches high school English at a Gymnasium in Glauchau in the German state of Saxony. Coming off a divorce, she finds that her work was underappreciated and despite demanding for more pay, she still receives 1,600 Euros a month, barely enough to make ends meet, especially as she has to cover court costs including child support. One day, she ghosts the school, disappearing into the sunset without telling anyone, only to be found trying to take her own life on the peninsula of Holnis northeast of Flensburg by drowning herself in rum. Luckily for her, a stranger walking by stops her and helps her.

SITUATION D: James teaches Social Studies and History at an International School in Hamburg. In the past two weeks, he only had an average of four hours of sleep because of a project he and his class had been doing on immigration and integration in Germany. Suddenly, during the presentation of the topic and standing in front of a crowd of 250 people, he becomes dizzy and blacks out. The next thing he knew, he is in the hospital and is subsequentially assigned to rehabilitation for a sleeping disorder.

SITUATION E: It is the end of the semester at the university in Mannheim and Corrina has had it. After a rigorous semester where the assistant professor of civil and mechanical engineering had to contend with paperwork involving grants, a cheating scandal involving students in one of her seminars, and a horrendous workload involving 22 hours of teaching, combined with a break-up with her partner of 7 years, she decides to take three weeks off and engages in a long-distance bike tour entitled “Tour of Tears,” which she soaks in the experience of visiting towns between Basel and Emden and feels better after the trip.

While the answer will appear at the end of this article, each example inhibits the symptoms of a mental illness that has taken hold on our society, thanks to the changes in working environment where the quality of work is being trumped by the quantity put in. Burn-out syndrome was first diagnosed by Herbert Freudenberger in 1974, but despite the different symptoms discovered by doctors and scientists, Christina Maslach and Susan Jackson in 1981 narrowed them down to three key categories, namely physical exhaustion, depersonalization- meaning cynicism and dissociation from work and lastly, low personal accomplishment and appreciation. The same duo created the Maslach Burn-out inventory, which features 22 questions to determine if and to what degree the person has burn-out. The German scientific organization Arbeitsbezogener Verhaltens- und Erlebensmuster (AVEM) created four classes of burn-out syndrome, ranging from type G being a slight case (tiredness and agitation), to type A, which represents the worst case as severe depression, obsession compulsive disorder and suicidal thoughts and/or attempts are common.  Burn-out syndrome is most commonly found in white-collar jobs, where people with office jobs work longer hours and have more demanding tasks than those working in the blue-collar jobs. Even more so are the teachers, police officers, administrators and government officials affected by this disorder, for the jobs demand human contact and a set of ethical rules to follow, something that is difficult to do, especially if one is a teacher.

Yet how is burn-out syndrome a serious problem among teachers? According to a survey conducted by German scientists Bauer, Unterbrink, Hack and others and involving questionnaires and observations, the teaching profession ranks number one as the most underappreciated job, number one as the job where a person can retire the earliest and sadly, number one on the list of professions where a person is most likely to develop psychological disorders, such as burn-out syndrome on the short scale, but on the long scale, the person can develop non-communicable diseases like cancer, stroke and/or even heart disease. In a survey conducted with 949 teachers in the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, burn-out syndrome is more prevalent among those who are either single or divorced than those in a relationship or are married, yet the average person suffering from the disease has the second worst type of burn-out- type B, which features depression symptoms, lack of concentration and creativity, dissociation from the job, indifference, and unchecked aggression.

The causes of burn-out among teachers are numerous and unfortunately universal, no matter which country you plan to teach. If there was a top five of the causes, they would start out with the lack of funding and support for the education system as being problem numero uno. Budget cuts means less money for materials, including books and technical equipment and lower salaries and less job security among teachers. Right behind that is the increase in paperwork in terms of administering more tests than necessary, rewriting the curriculum, documenting the results of tests for each student and filling out forms that justify the ordering of materials for class. The end result is less preparatory time for classes, less time for students and less time to create one’s own activities for class.  Number three is dealing with parents of delinquent pupils. This means instead of standing by the teachers in disciplining their kid, the parents are standing by the kids and cursing the teachers for not getting the job done. Schools have witnessed an increase in helicopter parents in the past 10 years, sometimes to a point where teachers have to handle not just the kids but also their parents in terms of discipline.  Number four is the lack of appreciation for the work put in. This can not only happen in the school when staff criticizes the work. It is worse at home when you receive little or no support from your loved ones because their work and your work is totally different. This happens to even those who are student-teaching for even a limited time. And lastly, the problem of balancing work and family life has become a major problem even recently. That means teachers are competing with white collar workers at a financial or multi-national company for the most number of hours a week clocked in- between 50 and 60 hours a week to be exact. Normally, teachers are entitled to work between 35 and 40 hours a week, as their job is on the same level as a governmental official. This explains the reason behind an increase in protests in Germany in the past five years, as many states have attempted to reduce funding to their education system due to less income brought on by taxes.

During my practical training at a Gymnasium in Thuringia, I observed a wide spectrum of veteran teachers who were affected by burn-out in one way or another. A couple of them had recovered through treatment prior to my arrival in March 2014, yet others appeared to be frustrated by the workload that had increased. One of them had the cheek to use a Dr. McCoy- Star Trek line during a class while doing some office duties with the students, saying “Dammit! I’m a teacher, not an administrator!” Some of the frustration also stemmed from the delinquent behavior by the students, namely those between grades six and eight.  Even some of the student teachers can get hammered by symptoms of burn-out for a combination of stress and long hours can result in the body not being able to fend off the unthinkable for viruses. This was the experience I had in the first month, where I was downed by a virus thanks to the lack of hours of rest plus getting adjusted to the working environment. Four weeks being bed-ridden, yet my colleague was nice to respond with this comment “Welcome to school. You survived the initiation ceremony!” Some initiation party I went through!  :-/

But yet, there is a good point when it comes to being a teacher: one needs to have nerves of steel and a heart of metal alloy, ticking 24-7 in order to survive the profession. That means one needs the following four Ps in order to be a successful teacher: passion, persistence, perseverance and patience, followed by a wild card P, meaning pride. This means a dedicated teacher nowadays needs to survive the increase in bureaucracy and politics, the complaints from parents, the disinterest of the students and the dog-eat-dog competition from colleagues, while at the same time, walk one’s own line in terms of the curriculum, creating activities, teaching and keeping the students in line and knowing when to say when. Sometimes when one speaks softly he needs to carry a big stick- and use it too!  Yet it is not easy if you find yourself feeling worn down, rejected and detached from your job, your family and even your own environment. Therefore while various forms of counseling and therapy are available, one has to sit down take stock at the situation, make a list of benefits and drawbacks to teaching, including the successes and problems in school, and make a plan where one says this is what I will do in addition to my teaching duties, but no more than that.  It is hard to do that, but in the end, it is doable. This is why in SITUATION E, where Corrina decides to take a break from her job and do the bike tour, it was because she wanted nothing more than to avoid burn-out. And sometimes, a hobby like a long-distance bike tour can help a person reflect on the job and recover for the next round.

And so to end this segment on burn-out, here is a question to all the teachers out there: when was there a time when you had burn-out and how did it happen? How did you handle the problem and why? And lastly, did it affect your decision to remain a teacher?  The Files would love to hear your stories about them, even if you keep your name anonymous.

While I had my whiff of burn-out during my practical training, it did not influence my decision to remain a teacher for one good reason: on my last day of class at the Gymnasium, a group of sixth graders, who were royal PITAs during my time teaching them, gave me a thank you card and a standing ovation! If a group of trouble-makers showing their appreciation towards your work does not convince you to remain a teacher, like mine did, what will? 🙂

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Author’s note: The situations are partially made up but a couple instances were based on true stories and accounts by people known by the author. The names and places mentioned here are fictitious and are in no way connected to these stories.

Featured Literature of the Week: The Last Letter of Virginia Woolf

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There are two reasons for moving up the featured literature of the week from 6 April to the 2nd. First we have Easter, which the author will be spending with his family and off the laptop. Second, the topic ties in with the latest discussion on a mental illness which seems to be on the war path- which is depression. Depression is a serious illness where one in four people on average suffer from. Of the 25% affected (which the rate is climbing, by the way), half of them have thought of suicide on many occasions, whereas a quarter of them keep the illness discrete until it is too late. In the case of the Germanwings disaster that occurred on the 24 March, 2015, which killed all 150 people on board, the plane crash was done intentionally by a co-pilot who had a history of severe depression and kept everything confidential- away from everyone until the final eight minutes of the flight, where he guided the plane down to the Alps, crashing it near Nice in France.

Yet despite the recent research on this illness, depression has been noted in many literary sources, including those written by authors who had suffered this disease. Virginia Woolf was one of those authors who suffered from depression all her life. Born in 1882, Ms. Woolf was one of the popular members of the Bloomsbury Group, having produced numerous works, such as Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, and Between the Acts. While she had married Leonard Woolf in 1912, a poor man who shared a close bond with Virginia for 25 years, depression had gotten the best of her, as she had been in and out of psychiatric clinics during the last two thirds of her life. Part of the reason behind her depression was the loss of her family and close friends during her younger years, combined with the environmental surroundings connected with fascism in Europe and subsequentially, World War II, where London was under siege in 1940-1. Much of the literary works written by Woolf and later those analysing her post humously focused on mental illness with some concluding she had suffered from bipolar depression. Finally, unable to cope with failure and loss, Ms. Woolf, on 28 March, 1941, donned on her overcoat, filled its pockets with stones, and drowned herself in a river near her home in London. Her body was found less than three weeks later.

Yet prior to her death, she had written her last letter to her husband. In it, she provided the reasons for her leaving the world, but in a way that would have made many scratch their heads. Many who try taking their lives would have poured out their frustrations and negative thoughts. However, in this letter, presented by Juliet Stevenson, Ms. Woolf looked at her life from a different angle, especially when it came to her love with her husband. Watch the clip and think about the following questions:

1. If you were in her husband’s shoes, how would you react to the letter? What actions would you take?

2. How would you try and help the person in this situation? What would you say to him/her?

3. Do you know of others affected by depression who had had similar thoughts? How did you help this person? When looking back, would you have done anything different and if so, what?

You are free to post your comments in the comment section, as well as the Files’ facebook page. Here’s the video and think about this subject:

The Files has some information about the Germanwings disaster and the author’s thoughts about the reactions of the media, which you can click here:

http://flensburgerfiles.areavoices.com/2015/04/02/focus-on-common-courtesy-badly-needed/

http://flensburgerfiles.areavoices.com/2015/03/24/germanwings-flight-crashes-in-france/ 

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