MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

So how about the weather?

Sometimes, just some, you may find yourself in that awkward situation when you suddenly run out of things to say. And it feels weird, because you want to say something to keep the conversation going, but just don’t know what. Then you just look around, at the sky for a while, and bang! there it is: “so how about the weather, eh?”. If there is one thing that is always reliable, it is talking about the weather – there is always something to say – about how warm or cold it is, how strange it is acting up, how different it is between countries, etc etc…

It is actually amazing at how much is being said about the weather, but how little is (or can) ever be done about it. Come to think about it, the weather dominates a large part of our lives: it is the final thing on the news for precisely that reason. You need to know what the weather will be like the next day(s) in order to prepare for your trip, to know what kind of clothes to wear, to know if you can organize that outdoor excursion you’re planning, or to even know if those clothes you’re washing can be hanged out to dry. Plus, it is quite an obvious fact that the ups and downs of the weather affect your mood and emotions. For example, it is commonly perceived that people living in Mediterranean countries where the sun shines for most of the year are generally more easy-going, happier, and more positive (well, at least until the economic crisis struck!). And it is also more likely to suffer depression or melancholy when it is dark, grey and raining.

Changes in metereological conditions, no matter how much they are criticized for resulting in unimaginative conversations, are, in any sense, a part of our lives. But discussions don’t have to be dominated by that. There are so many more things to talk about, but these are all based on conditionalities: for example, having similar interests and concerns, similar likes and hobbies, and agreeing at least on something, for no-one can engage in a long-lasting conversation if they disagree with their interlocutor on everything. That would be more reminiscent of a saloon fight than a civilized conversation. Either way, the beauty of a true democracy is that freedom of expression and opinion is a given, providing everyone with the opportunity of expressing their own ideas, views and values, in such a way so as to stimulate a healthy debate on issues that concern us all. That, after all, is the point of having a discussion: to enlighten yourself by exchanging views with others and understanding opinions different to your own.  People today lack the ability to listen.  Instead, everybody wants to talk. And in the end a quarrel ensues in which each side categorically insists on the validity of their own beliefs, completely disregarding that of others. People have forgotten how to respect difference, not only in appearance but also in the mind. Just because, there are some things in common for all does not mean that we should all think the same. After all we are not created as clones, nor built as robots. People are born unique, with their own set of ideas and mentalities. And discussions help maintain and improve this, while opening-up close-minded visions to a wider part of the world.

And besides, if you’re ever stuck in that weird situation where you’re just not in the mood for a fight, or have no more ideas to share, well…there’s always the weather!

In a different world…yet the very same

Watching a movie on the big screen is certainly not the same as watching it at home. No matter how big your TV is, how effective your home cinema or stereo surround system is, nothing beats going to the movie theatre. Where for about two hours you are isolated from everything and everyone. Cut-off from the rest of the world. And you can experience the movie; indulge in the action, the sentiment, the thrill. Enter the world depicted on screen. And literally go to the movie!

Of course the excitement of watching a movie at the cinema today is ruined by the prospect of people talking or munching away throughout the film, cell phones ringing and people tweeting away. Yet even that cannot detract from the thrill of entering a dark auditorium, sitting at the very back, and enjoying one of the latest film releases on a giant screen, together with a crowd of people, the majority of whom you do not know and probably will never even see again.

People go to the movies for a variety of reasons: as a fun outing and a change of surroundings, to see a long-awaited film, to socialize with their friends. But most of all, even without consciously being aware of it, people go to the movies to enjoy a few moments of silence. Sitting in the dark for a couple of hours, in silence, is actually soothing, even healing at times. Staring into a 30ft screen, keeps you mesmerized enough to fully focus on the movie plot and plunge into that artistic realm that will get your mind off everything else. Even if only for a few hours, the only thing that is troubling your brain is the outcome of the story you are witnessing unravel on screen. That is probably also the reason why a film is experienced much more holistically and at its fullest in a movie theatre; why the action is more alive; the sound effects more vivid; the horror more intense; the sci-fi more surreal; the suspense more powerful; the drama more moving; the comedy funnier. And that is precisely the enchantment of going to the movies. The fact that you are actually able to live the very story you went to watch, and for an hour or two you get to forget your own troubles. For those two hours, the world does not revolve around you. It is a motion picture and you are simply an observer.

And when the lights come back on and you are forced to return back to the real world, that is when you realize if the movie was any good. For a good movie will make you ponder for a moment, and then exit the theatre with a different perspective on life. It will cause you to think and reconsider. And most of all it will light inside you a spark to guide you through your own story. Movies always have a touch of reality hidden away inside them, and if you look close enough, you’ll find that life too can act as a giant screen for a motion picture to unfold. All it takes is the will and passion to act it out…

Is it the money or the job?

I was recently asked whether I would rather have a job where I wouldn’t do much but get paid a lot, or a job where I would work too much but hardly get any pay. To be honest, I was perplexed and didn’t know what to answer. It is not an easy question to reply to.

Doing a job you don’t really like just for the money would enable you to live well-off, having the ease of buying the things you want, being able to travel to the places you want to go to, and generally to breathe life into your material aspirations – well, at least those that money can buy! On the other hand, however, doing a job you love would fill you with the moral satisfaction of actually doing something that pleases you. And at the end of the day, you would be complacent with all that you’ve produced and accomplished. The catch is that you wouldn’t receive the adequate financial compensation. Something which would mean you would have to resort to sacrifices, counting the money you’ve got saved, or even getting a second job just to help out with the expenses. Both options have a downside. Of course the ideal would be to have the job you love and actually get paid well for it. But how many people in the world can really say that about their employment? Most people usually complain about the long hours they work; the constant running around; or the added stress, while others moan about the limited pay; the lack of a raise or bonus; and the fact that it never seems to be enough; that come the end of the month, their balance is always negative.  Striking the perfect deal between work and money is almost impossible to achieve, for humans have it in their nature to always ask for more.

Confucius said that if you choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life. It seems the moral satisfaction of doing something you truly enjoy, of occupying your hours and days with a profession that gratifies you, is much more significant – at least on a psychological level – than the money you gain out of it.

It is true, nonetheless, that many people resort to jobs that sometimes seem meaningless simply for the sake of gaining the money that will ensure their survival – for food, rent, clothes. After all, there is no shame in any form of work. Yet even that at times lacks the necessary fulfillment of doing something you know well and proving useful at it. After all, every person wants to feel that his/her actions actually contribute to something greater. That they help induce a change, an improvement, and that through that they – in a way – leave their mark. All that people ever seek is for acknowledgement. The apprehension of a job well done; of skills that are remarkable and appreciated as such; of a “thank you” and of a “keep it up”. Just like giving a dog a bone to reward his excellent tricks, people need and often deserve a reward for their own accomplishments. Be it a kind word or a worthy gesture, a one-off bonus or a wage increase, all people possess within them the longing for others to recognize their qualities.

In order to stand out from the crowd, we all need a push. Be it from within or from an exterior force, some help is always needed. In any shape or form…

Also part of Daily Prompt: Work? Optional!

To Tweet Or Not to Tweet?

The world evolves and so should we. We should progress and keep up with new technnology, new trends and new social developments. Tweet, Like, Share, Follow, are becoming the new language of the day. With applications such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Tumblr, Foursquare, MySpace, Google+ and many more perhaps less “famous”, flooding the market…it is quite logical that the next generation will talk in code. In hashtags (#), @ signs and abbreviations. Don’t understand any of it? Well you’re not alone! Even people utilising social media have difficulty getting acquainted with the savoir faire of it all! After all it is not a coincidence that so many websites, ebooks, and blogs are filled with how to improve your ‘posting’ skills and how to maximise the social media experience to best accommodate your needs. Even worldwide companies and ‘VIPs’ now utilise social media to keep up to speed with progressing times. Social media is now an important tool in advertising, in electoral campaigns, in news briefs, and generally in everyday situations. Fans soar in millions to Like and Retweet what a celebrity posted on his wall or profile, no matter how insignificant or irrelevant it may be. People often even become obsessed with this new nature of technology that even reading an email often prompts them to go searching for a “Like” button!

Erik Qualman had stated that “the power of social media is it forces necessary change”. But sometimes that change leads to overinformation and certainly over-dependence on digital technology. So much that even when you go out to dinner you just have to log in to the place demonstrating to all your followers and friends where you are; post a picture of what you are doing, and even hashtag it so that it will appear in all other relevant posts! Perhaps it is a consequence of what Aristotle had said, that man is by nature a social animal. What is ironic, however, is that all this tweeting, and posting, and retweeting, and liking etc etc results in people fixed in front of a screen (no matter how large or small that may be) and trying to promote an often fantastic social life to other people who they may not even know and who are doing exactly the same! Social media may lead to progression, and it may certainly enhance communication – making it faster and easier. But even though it facilitates our life, it often makes it more empty. Simply because that is what you’re posting, tweeting, sharing, doesn’t mean that this is what your life is like. Social media give people the opportunity to appear as they want to be. To desperately seek for attention and even receive it. And to apparently live in a digital world with more followers and friends than they could ever really meet! Social media has made the web all about “me”. It focuses on self-promotion and relationship building, thus satisfying the human need for acknowledgement of his/her existence.

But then again, in an interconnected world, it is this very social media that has brought people closer together. That has connected people from all over the world and has enabled the exchange of information and ideas. Yet, as the Ancient Greeks said, all should be used in good measure. There is no need to tweet about every chocolate bar you are eating or every news article you read. There is enough information out there already to keep us busy for years on end. Information is not knowledge. Experiencing life is…

Common sense should be rated as a superpower

They say common sense is actually a curse because you have to deal with all those who don’t have it. Indeed common sense is not as common as we may think. What strikes you as obvious may not be so for someone else. Indeed “nonsense is so good only because common sense is so limited” (George Santayana).

Things like looking both ways before you cross the street; not parking on a turn or on a sidewalk that pedestrians should use; editing before printing; counting your change; and simply paying attention to what you do and where you’re going, may be justly classified as common sense. Not to everyone though. Some people take things for granted. Like the fact that your change will always be the right amount. Or the fact that if there is no other place to park, leaving your car in the middle of the road is an acceptable practice. It’s the things that can tick a person off. That can irritate you and ruin your mood for the day. But it is also things that we simply should learn to accept, for the fact alone that human nature and its mentality are very difficult to change.

Common sense is defined as “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts” or even as “the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way”. Common sense is based on a person’s rationale. His/her ability to rationalise situations and decide the appropriate form of action, simply based on what is obvious. For example, walking around a street lamp in the street and not climbing up it and down the other side; or even keeping your hand away from the fire. It is this ability to rationalise that supposedly gives humans their superior character. But what is obvious to one person doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be viewed the same way by another. That is why communication is intrinsic. It actually enables people to understand each other and one another’s perspective, and hence, their rationale on certain situations.

The only problem with common sense is that everyone thinks they possess it and this can lead to arrogance and the determined belief that “my way is more right than yours”. In such situations, however, it is important to remain calm and use justified arguments for your case. Patience, after all, is a virtue…

Shopping for a different mood

It’s not just Upper East Side ‘Cosmo’ girls that go shopping.  Nor is it simply shopaholics. It is a known fact that when a woman is upset she goes shopping. Even if you don’t really need anything, you will always find something to buy. Strolling in and out of all those shops, there will always be something that will catch your eye; that will strike you as new and extraordinary and will pull you towards it, calling you to make it yours. It is also a fact that people don’t want others to tell them how to spend their money, but everyone loves buying stuff. That is why shopping is often perceived as a form of therapy. It is a mood-lifter after all, even if it is only short-term. But if you keep your spending in reasonable measure, retail therapy can have a longer-lasting effect.

Studies on this interesting issue have in fact found that shopping can actually make you happy. Shopping is deemed as treating yourself to something nice and this has a lasting positive impact on your mood, shoving aside any negative emotional side-effects. Of course it doesn’t really erase the reason you were in a bad mood but at least it helps you overcome it. Purchases from retail therapy are considered overwhelmingly beneficial, leading to mood boosts and no regrets or guilt. And there always seem to be positive consequences to buying yourself a small treat, for in the end you do feel better. Perhaps it is also the prospect that these “comfort purchases” will improve your image to the outside world; the allure that you will look better, even if you’re feeling blue inside.

However, the reason that a therapeutic shopping spree boosts our mood can be traced back to the brain releasing the chemical dopamine which is essential for our mental and physical health. Dopamine is associated with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, and it is released when we experience something new, exciting or challenging. And for many people, shopping is all those things. Walking in to a store and seeing all those things you haven’t seen before, trying on clothes and shoes you haven’t tried on before, is an instant pick-me-up.

Shopping therefore can be enormously rewarding to us. And like the author of the “Shopaholic” series, Sophie Kinsella, said “Honestly, shopping beats therapy, anytime. It costs the same and you get a dress out of it”.

P.S. Yes, I did recently go on a shopping therapy spree! But no, I am not trying to justify it. It does work!

Change the scene, Change yourself, Change life

The saying goes that if you don’t like something, you change it. And if you can’t change that, then change your attitude (Maya Angelou).

Changes are necessary because they help you move forward. To overcome a traumatic experience and to find the strength to move on. Even if it is just moving furniture around and redecorating, such alterations feed your mind with the allusion of being in a different environment. Indeed, “if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”(Wayne Dyer). And sometimes that is all it takes in order to be able to let go of the things that tie you down with the past, with memories that now make you sad, and push you to move on with life.

Just like you change your wardrobe when seasons change, so must we every now and then introduce alterations in our life. Change is a sign of progression. Of evolution. That we are not at a standstill. That we are able to keep moving no matter the circumstances.

Change might be frightening at times, but it is what will give you courage, to plunge into the unknown. It involves overcoming your fear and moving out of your “comfort zone”, daring to try something new and demonstrating the ability to adapt. Sometimes, when that very zone stops providing comfort, that is when you know you have to make changes. First in your environment and surroundings and then progressively in yourself. In your attitude. Change is an opportunity to reinvent yourself and your view of things.

Change is also a motivator to grow. It is about transforming yourself and your surroundings in a positive way. To bring a new breeze into your life, to confront what is keeping you back and be courageous enough to pursue a new course. And to “boldly go where no one has gone before“. There is no intermediate in change. Like Yoda, the Jedi Master of Star Wars, said “you do or you do not. There is no try”. It is about commitment, about putting in the effort and believing it will be for the best. Change stands for progress and will only lighten up your load and pave your way forward. In other words, change happens because people want to improve their conditions, are motivated to do so, have the prospect and resources to carry out transformations, and because that is what a developing society and hence a progressive mind does!

Mahatma Gandi had encouraged us to “be the change you want to see in the world”, for if you keep waiting for others to change or for a different time, that change will never come. Grand changes begin from small alterations. The world will not change if the people themselves never do. We must be the transformation that we seek and we must seize the very moment to be the perfect time to achieve it. Life cannot be lived without changes.

All things must change to something new, to something strange – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Also part of Daily Prompt: Everything Changes

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