RHYMES&REASONS

Observations, Thoughts and Reflections on 21st Century Life

Tag: 21st Century

The Child of Fear and Grievance

The temperature of nationalism has been on the rise in Europe since the beginning of this century.  This week it came roaring it’s way over the threshold of the UK parliament seating itself firmly in the chambers of power.  The middle ground is being pulled to the outer edges of fear and grievance.

At best nationalism is an invitation for the unwelcome guest to return home; at worst the exorcism of an unwanted presence in our homeland.  We struggle to let go of the way we have decided to tell our story, embellished by time and enmeshed with grievance it provides us with a sense of belonging.  Nebulous and lacking definition it longs for incarnation and roams with intent, seeking the portal of increasing support through which it can transmute and manifest.  At the same time we are not quite knowing or recognizing the form of our intention.  We explore the streets of our political landscape looking for firm ground but finding only rough terrain which keeps us off balance and unsure.

 Instead of choosing to let go of the foundational memory of those we were wronged by, a false sense of self enables a collective pain to thrive and breeds fresh fear of a contemporary but false enemy.  We cease to be afraid of our neighbours when we cease to carry the collective fear and injustice of our past, choosing instead to make friends with those we previously challenged with a beckoning hand to our future.  To let go is to enable ourselves – our nation – to see our place in the world more elementally and clearly.  It is to unburden ourselves from carrying the past and lighten the load, sweeping away the black cloud of history which was passed down to us and – without such bravery – we will inevitably pass to our children.

Withdrawal from the front line of demand and grievance enables us to realign and find a fresh perspective, viewed through a contemporary wide angle lens rather than the myopic glass of selective and painful memory.  It is only from here we will find solid ground from which to step forward in friendship and have our voice heard in a different, clear fresh and powerful way.

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You may also be interested in an earlier post  A Sense of Un-Belonging.

One Marshmallow or Two? The Lost Art of Delayed Gratification

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A desire indulged spontaneously offers little more than momentary, fleeting pleasure – a treat, whose value is briefly inflated before it melts with a small sigh across our memory.

That which has been anticipated, struggled over and procrastinated against carries within it our best efforts in the shape of an earned understanding.  The resulting fulfillment is part of us, radiating a deep and lasting satisfaction that the sugary goosebumps of a treat can never hope to imitate.

It is more than 5o years since Walter Mischel’s social experiment with four year olds, in which they could enjoy the instant pleasure of eating a single marshmallow or wait twenty minutes and have two. Each child was left alone to make the choice. It was a battle between desire and self-control; gratification and delay.  A seemingly simple tussle and yet the ability to resist impulse is a fundamental emotional skill, the foundation stone of self-control.  The children who managed to wait did so by distracting themselves, demonstrating perseverance towards fulfillment of a future goal.  Follow up studies showed that those who managed to resist temptation went on to lead happier and more successful lives than those who gave into it.

Our capacity to resist is under threat.  Modern life teases, tempts and torments, seducing us into believing that not only must we have the latest phone, the most exotic holiday or the best job, we need to be the first.  We expect to achieve with limited effort on our part – because we deserve it, don’t we?  We have conformed to – and now embrace – an era of instant gratification and our ability to satiate our constant demands has become the currency by which we value ourselves and judge others, the scale by which we perceive our success.  It is the market by which our economy thrives or dives, the treadmill updated from industrial 20th to digital 21st century. Gone are the days when saving up for, or working towards the object of our desire was not only necessary but character building, strengthening resolve, patience and the ability to endure discomfort and disappointment.

 Patience is a word out of sync with our modern society.  We are so used to our desires being  instantly met, that a certain complacency sets in and we struggle to endure the discordant sensations of wanting and lack.  Waiting feels an unreasonable request, we expect it not of ourselves but of others;  so we complain and demand like a two year old whose needs are not attended to.  The planning and  anticipation of fulfillment has become the new addiction, the skin deep ‘high’ satisfying little more than a momentary whim before we’re seeking the next fix.  Lasting satisfaction comes from striving, embedding our heart and soul within our endeavours, elevating the pleasure and value way beyond the instantaneous.

The art of balancing treat and toil is fast disappearing. Let’s refuse to settle for indulgent underachievement and strive for the infinitely more satisfying depths of delayed gratification.

And then enjoy a treat!  One marshmallow or two . . . .

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