MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the month “November, 2015”

What to do in a blackout

http://www.greentechmedia.com/content/images/articles/blackout_1.jpgThere you are, enjoying a steaming hot shower after a freezing cold day. You take your time, reveling in the warm water running down your shoulders, allowing you to relax and feel rejuvenated after a tiring day. A flicker of light gets you worried for an instance, but you decided to think nothing of it. And just when you lift your foot to get out, the lights go out and you find yourself in a total blackout. You can see absolutely nothing, so it is good you already know your way around. But what do you do?

Firstly, you need to put something around you, if only to soak up the water dripping from you. Then you need to find light of some sort – be it candles, the computer screen (for as long as the battery lasts), or even a torch on your smartphone (see, it is smart after all).

Voices are heard in the corridor, because it is not just your flat that lies in darkness, but the entire building. You half-open the window shutter to witness that the entire block is out of power. This is interesting.

It might take a while to get back the technology you are so accustomed to, so what do you do? You mainly appreciate the silence, acknowledging how much noise electricity actually makes – well, you did have the fridge, computer, television, radio, heater, and tea kettle on.

Then you begin to wonder what would people do without electricity? Sure, you still have your computer and phone working, but for how long? And there is no internet, so basically you are cut-off from that form of communication.

Are you dressed yet? You need to keep warm.

There are noises outside, running up and down the stairs. At least, someone is trying to fix the problem.

You head to the kitchen for a snack. There is no use staying hungry all through this ordeal. Find something healthy, like wholemeal chips. That will keep you busy while waiting in the dark.

You hope the power will return before the battery of your savior-machines bails on you.

And all of a sudden, there is light! You can hear the fridge sounds return, the TV turning back on, the modem signaling it’s on, the computer plugging in, the radio singing, the heater warming up again. You rejoice with the “return to civilization”. You exhale a sigh of relief, as your boredom ends.

But it is short-lived, as the blackout revisits. Apparently, the problem was not fixed.

So you sit and wait, until the power eventually returns for good this time. And as you watch the candle light casts its shadows in the dark, all you can do is acknowledge how addicted we have become to things we take for granted. Things that we can now not live without. Things that may help us, but at the same time have converted us into technology-junkies vulnerable to any situation that does not involve their use. Because, be honest, how many of you took a photo during a blackout to post once the power is back on?

 

N.B. Based on a true incident, Athens, Greece, 30 November 2015 (apart from the blackout selfie).

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The Transformation Hat

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/02/Amsterdam_-_Hats_-_0931.jpgThe first one that ever came into his possession was a tall black suede one. It looked so elegant and it made him feel so sleek and classy, like a real gentleman. The next one, he found in a vintage store. It was a dark green beret, like the ones marines wear, and with it, he felt athletic, strong and robust. After that, it became an obsession for him. And it seemed that with every new hat he acquired, he was granted the key to emphasizing an aspect of his character, sometimes even one he was unaware of.

Jonah would wake up every day and decide on the hat that he would wear, before choosing the clothes he would match it with. It all depended on his mood that day, and mainly on what he wanted to feel. So if he wanted to feel sporty and pass by almost unnoticed, he would wear his favorite baseball cap. If on the other hand he wanted to cause gazes to turn his way, he had the brown plaited deerstalker hat á la Sherlock Holmes. On the days he wanted to seem adventurous and exotic, he had the black cowboy hat with its silver band glistening in the sunlight.

Jonah was generally a very hat person. But that was not always a good thing. Because one time he actually misplaced his hat and could not decide what type of personality he was until he eventually found it again. He relied too much on some material good to dictate who he was to the extent that he forgot what type of person he truly strived to be. It was wonderful that he could be all those different persons with a simply change of a hat, but what about when he was without one? He no longer new who he was, and that was a quest he was reluctant to take on. That is the danger of getting too used to something – you fear too much of letting it go.

The avalanche mounting behind the door

http://www.snowcollegenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/avalanche.fraktik.com_.jpegOn the nights he slept over at his grandmother’s, Seth was always tucked into bed with the goodnight wish that “the brightest things would come to him when he least expected them.” His grandmother explained that that is when he would appreciate them the most. Seth never did understand what she meant. Until he grew up and turned 34.

Seth had become close friends with Murphy. This guy had a global law named after him, which was the embodiment of the phrase “when it rains, it pours”. Seth knew it well. Despite wanting to believe what his grandmother had insisted on instilling in him – that all the proper things come and find you at the right time – he refused to believe that nothing good ever stayed with him.

At 27, he was still living with his parents, scraping by, working as a waiter at a nearby café because he could not find any paying work in his university-degree sector of engineering.

At 29, he broke up with his long-term girlfriend because she could no longer take his uncertainty, his pessimism and his lack of ambition. She was the type who believed there was nothing wrong with trying to reach further than you could see. Seth was the type who needed glasses to see the end of his fingertips.

At 32, a major crisis struck. Seth was going through what most people experience at some point in their lives – reminiscing of how everything used to be simpler when we were younger, of how nothing turned out the way you expected, and of how the future looks so bleak, you don’t see anything worth fighting for anymore.

But that is when things began to change.

When he thought that everything would simply continue downhill.

An executive officer of a multinational corporation walked into the aforementioned café one day. Seth was the one to serve him, but having seen him numerous times there, he suggested exactly what the businessman wanted to order. Frequent customers usually have fixed preferences. The businessman was having a rough day, and was encouraged by the smile on Seth’s face and the kindness with which he was approached. The small talk while the coffee was being prepared turned into an invite to an interview, which two days later became a work offer.

Two years later, it was Seth who was in charge of his own department, drinking coffee with the businessman, instead of serving him.

And that was when he remembered his grandmother’s words. Because he had settled the career issue, but what about the relationships phase? He had met all sorts of women during the years: the crazy ones who checked your phone when you went to the bathroom; the really crazy ones who also checked your pockets and bags; the insane ones who would freak out if they saw you with another woman; the ones who didn’t really care because they were already cheating on you; and, of course, the right ones at the wrong time, who were already in other relationships. He would return home and feel alone. Even Heather, his Siamese cat had befriended the Tomcat from next door. His mind ran back to Esther. She was for him “the one that got away”. He believed everyone had one such person. But come night, he would remember a story his grandmother used to tell him, that when souls were created, they split in half when they fell to Earth, and ever since people spend their entire lives trying to find their other half. Seth was overcome by grief and longing for Esther, but could not sum up the courage to call her. So many years had passed, she would certainly have moved on.

There are times when in life, nothing happens, and then when you finally find the door to open, events come pouring onto you like an avalanche.

That is what happened with Seth. When one night the phone rang, and the answer to his curious “hello?” was a soft trembling voice he knew too well, stating “it’s me”.

Light up the dark

http://www.brisbanekids.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Brisbane-christmas-lights.jpgAs children, we’ve all spent nights when we wanted to sleep with the lights turned on. We feel safer this way. As if the monsters hiding in the closet or under the bed or wherever else they may be won’t be able to reach us. As if the nightmares won’t come if the lights are on.

Growing up, we still try to illuminate our lives in whatever way possible. We open the windows each day, hoping the sunlight will come bursting into every corner of our house. We go to work, preferably in a brightly-lit environment, knowing that when located in such a one, we are more productive and efficient. We fill ourselves with knowledge reading about everything and everyone online. We thrive in our certainty that the more we know, the safer we feel.

And we get depressed when autumn arrives, with the falling leaves, the cloudy skies and the rain. The ballads and mood-killer songs overwhelm our heads, our rhythm slows down, and we find ourselves seeking more daylight. Since the early afternoon when the sunset is followed by the imminent darkening horizon, we are urged to get up and turn on the lights.

Because in the end, that is exactly what we need: some light to drive out the darkness. That is why we light candles whenever and wherever possible. Or why, come Christmas and New Year’s we immerse ourselves in coloured lights and sparkles. Because we want to feel safe and certain that the future that lies ahead has in store for us nothing but hope, optimism and the positivity that is so lacking in our times.

Broken people

https://leighchristian.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/brokenpieces.jpg

We are all broken. In some form or other.

We feel the need to believe in something ideal, in dreams, in positive thoughts.

But soon there comes a time when it all dawns on you.

There is no ideal.

There is no perfect.

And often nothing is at all like you hope it would be.

There is no prince on a white horse.

Nor is there a model-figure princess.

There is no magic to solve it all.

There is no clear reason for everything that happens.

Life is not as easy or as simplified as that.

We end up sharing out pieces of each other every time we open up to one another.

But whenever relationships end badly, those pieces are also lost.

And we are left broken.

Trying to continue life with the knowledge that we may never get what we want.

But despite being broken, we still fight to survive.

Because in the end, that is all we have.

The impulse of an act

wooden bridge nightWhat happened last night?” Vivienne rubbed her eyes as she awakened in a jail cell. Her best friend was sitting right next to her. She had clearly been awake much longer; perhaps she had not even slept at all.

You don’t remember?” Charlotte stared at her wide-eyed. She seemed furious. A bit puzzled too. And quite stressed.

Don’t you remember anything about last night? Nothing? At all?” the panic in her voice was now evident.

Vivienne was still trying to wake up. The litres of alcohol she had consumed the night before were now catching up with her, causing an invisible hammer to pound on her head. She held her head up and calmly responded, “not a thing”. “What did we do?” her curiosity was pure and naïve. It was as if she was asking why the neighbor was piling boxes in his yard. As this did not affect her. As though she did not just spend the night in prison.

Charlotte was furious. And the more angry she got, the more Vivienne wanted to know what exactly happened the night before. She felt as if she was watching her favourite TV series and it had been cut-off at a cliffhanger scene.

The last thing I remember is drinking shots at that bar by the river. Everything is a blank after that. What happened? Did we do something bad?

No honey, we were brought to prison for our own safety”. Charlotte was a master in sarcasm. And she performed best at moments when her rage overwhelmed her.

Sweetie, you got hammered last night. You literally drank a bottle of wine on your own at Spencer’s house, then when we went for Mexican you had half a pitcher of Margaritas, and it was you who insisted we go for more drinks after that. We conceded mainly because you were so upset after seeing Weston again after so long. So we went to that bar by the river that you remember. And we said we’d have one drink. But the waiter took a liking on us – probably you, that is – you were so… friendly and cheerful with everyone; it was bound to get misunderstood.

It’s not my fault I get overly excited when I drink!

Charlotte raised her eyebrows at her. “So, what happened?” Vivienne felt she was listening to a story, not a recount of what she had done the previous night.

We had three rounds of shots and you had another couple of glasses of vodka. You started to get dizzy so the guys suggested we leave and get you out to the fresh air. That is when we went to the bridge and you saw the wooden boat right under it…

Oh no…” Vivienne knew where this was going. She knew herself too well. And her drunk self was even worse. Or rather, more unpredictable and impulsive than her normal self could ever be.

What did I make you guys do?” she questioned in full embarrassment.

You ran down and literally stole the boat for a moonlight stroll. We had to get in too, to control you. But you started feeling woozy and rocked the boat, overturning us all in the freezing river. It was your screaming that brought the police.

And they arrested us for that?” Apparently, it was not a good enough reason.

Oh no, sweetie. They arrested us because you threw up on one of the police officers and then slapped the face off the other one because you hallucinated into thinking it was Weston. That’s what we got arrested for.

But why are you here then?

Because I’m so stupid to care so much for you, I didn’t want to leave you alone in this state of yours. Who knows who else you would molest.

So, I wasn’t left alone at all after that?

Well, just for a couple of minutes when I went to call Justin. He’s bound to come bail us out any minute now. We’ve already been here for six hours.”

OK. So in those few minutes, I didn’t…you know… do anything else, did I?” Vivienne was genuinely frightened. It is scary not remembering part of your life and the actions you may have taken during that time. Especially if they will affect your present or future.

I sure hope not.” Charlotte knew her friend too well, but loved her the same nonetheless.

Their discussion was interrupted by a prison guard coming to let them out.

Is Justin here?” asked Charlotte.

No,” the guard replied. “I made some calls.

Why?” asked Vivienne surprised.

You said you’d only go out with me if you weren’t in here, didn’t you? And I do think we would match. Don’t let my job fool you, I told you I am a trained lawyer. I just can’t get a decent job just yet”.

Vivienne gulped. Her face was heating up and her stomach was churning the previous night’s alcohol.

Charlotte laughed. At least the lawyer-turned-prison-guard was cute. He was young, tall, handsome and athletic. He couldn’t be that bad.

A few days later Vivienne did go on that date with the prison guard, whose name was Leo, by the way. She was blown away at how different he was outside the prison. And so was he. She was careful not to drink too much this time. But she was equally cheerful. It was the excitement of realising that sometimes it is on an impulse that your true desires are revealed and you are pushed into taking the actions that otherwise you would talk yourself out of.

Living off a passion

do-what-you-loveIt’s a great feeling being passionate. To have this incessant energy to do more, to want more, to want better. In everything. For every part of your life. The problem comes when you feel the compelling need to make a living out of this passion.

Everyone will try to convince you that doing what you love is all that matters. So you try to do that. But then you will soon come to realise that what truly matters is being able to live off what you do. So you will have to compromise. To reach for things that you didn’t think of previously, but at which you are good at no matter if they simply please you, rather than enthuse you. That is how you learn that elaborating on your passion will sometimes be restricted to something you do for you, to maintain that pure emotion of loving what it is that you do, that you are talented at, and that you enjoy.

It would be great if we could all do what we love most and get paid for it so much that we needn’t do anything else. But unfortunately, you will soon come to realise that that is not how the world works.

Many have argued for or against “finding what you love and making this your work”, but there is a distinct difference between doing something for the pleasure of it, and doing something because you must in order to get compensated for it. The notion alone clarifies the distinction.

Some have even argued that “the goal shouldn’t be to find your passion—as if it has been there, undiscovered, from the beginning—but to create one”. There is an underlying truth in that, because the reality is, whatever it is you do, you should like it even just a little bit. Because otherwise, it is no longer work, but a chore. And there is a whole other definition for that too.

So in essence, you shouldn’t give up on your passion, just don’t expect that it will be easy or entirely satisfying to make a living out of it. Because once money is involved, you always know that the commercialization of this world means that someone else also profits of you. Sometimes without them even doing anything. And then that becomes exploitation. Especially if you’re so adept on exploring the opportunities offered through your passion that you’re willing to do it for free, in the hope that once out there, someone will notice you and come calling. You just need to be careful and aware that certain distinctions in life are made to be kept. Not everything is as easy or as blissful as it seems in theory.

It’s not easy being Greek

Youth in GreeceFor the past five years, Greece has been the centre of news around the world. Not so much because of its spirit of democracy and ethos imbued by our Ancient Greek ancestors. But because of the shame, deceitfulness and financial mismanagement brought about by their predecessors. Media around the world have vilified the country that thus far was praised for all the principles and values it had introduced to the modern world. Yet, we ourselves proved unable to live up to them.

It is not Greece alone that is in financial trouble. The whole of Europe is, and most of the world too. But Greece is an easy target. The advertised ‘300 days of sunshine’, the Mediterranean diet, the mythical island beaches, the relaxed and ‘easy-going’ way of life are so easy to despise and scorn, and all the more easy to contradict with the lack of responsibility and order, especially as regards public finances. The source of all our troubles.

Foreigners cannot understand how Greeks can still fill restaurants and cafés, as if nothing is going on around them. But Greeks themselves justify their outings, by arguing that staying indoors and damning their misfortunes is not a solution that will lead anywhere.

And they are right.

Because it is not the “ordinary” Greeks who can do much to change the situation, other than adhere to the harsh measures imposed. Those brought upon them by others. Others, who, are supposed to represent them, but once in power, forget all electoral promises and turn the other way. The lay Greeks are the ones who witness their country’s demise and all they can do is shout, exasperate, and eventually just let it go, because somethings will never change.

This attitude is what has caused over 200,000 young Greeks to search for a future abroad. For many, their dreams and expectations were too big for what the country (now) had to offer. It is certainly not easy to get up and leave. To abandon everything you are familiar with, the life you are accustomed to, your friends and family. But it is even harder deciding to stay. It takes more courage to remain and continue to fight in a country that is constantly proving to be against you in every way.

There are many Greeks who choose to stay. And they should be respected all the more for that. Because they are still trying. They are the ones who believe that “if everyone just leaves, who will stay and fix the country?” They are the ones who still dream, but are determined to compromise on a few things in order to survive. They may not be acknowledged as much as they should, nor are they compensated for the work they do. But they choose to stay. Why? Why would you stay when everything and everyone around you screams go?

Because you still hope. You believe deep down that things will change for the better. And that you will be part of the wheel that will set it all in motion.

There are young Greeks, in their early 30s, educated, full of thirst for life and willing to work. There are those who decide to strive on their own, and, since they can’t find the work they want, they will create it themselves. In a period of crisis, struck on all fronts by austerity measures, stifling bureaucracy and high taxes, these Greeks persist in having their own way. There are many who have launched their own business, determined to change foreign perceptions of their country, making it a model to emulate, rather than one to avoid. It is these Greeks who have been dubbed the crazy ones, the radicals, the dreamers. The ones who people look upon with both admiration and sympathy. But aren’t “those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, usually the ones that do”?

It is not easy being Greek nowadays. And it is certainly not easy being Greek in Greece. But there are still many who insist, persist, and resist all negative waves pounding their way. Maybe it is through them that Greece will arise again. After all, it was Socrates who said that the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but in building the new. And that is just what we need. A new start.

See also related reports with examples of Greeks who try to accomplish more in their own country in English and Greek.

The coincidental start

Blue umbrella rainIt was raining on that Tuesday morning. But as she prepared to go out, she remembered that her umbrella had been broken by the previous day’s whirling storm. So she had to run to the little store around the corner which she was certain sold umbrellas, because she had her eye set on one particular one every time she passed by – it was large, blue with white polka dots and a curving gold ornate handle. That was the one she was going to buy.

She splattered out into the rain, and ran to the store as fast as she could, trying not to fall head first into any puddle on her way. As she reached for the door handle, raising her right foot ready to step in, the door swung open and she was inadvertently pulled in. A tall gentleman expressed his sincere apologies and rushed out. He had obviously just brought a long black umbrella, which he now put into use. She hadn’t managed to fully retain the features of his face, though. She was still a bit shocked by her own entrance into the shop. What she hadn’t noticed, however, was that her long blue scarf had swished across the nostrils of the man leaving the store. It had the perfume of wild lilies.

As she got ready to pay for the merchandise she happily purchased, she saw that the little old man running the store was reading a newspaper. He had left the page open at the career vacancies section and her eyes fell onto a bold, black-framed ad calling for an external associate for a large tech company. She asked the old man if she could take the ad, and he gladly ripped out the page and gave it to her. On the back of that page was an entire feature on how technology is ruining the life of small children. Yet, technology was the very reason she didn’t read the paper anymore – news was faster and more current online.

She ran back home to send her CV and details for the position. She knew it was silly, but she spent the next couple of hours waiting.

In the meantime, the rain stopped.

But the minute she decided to finally go to the supermarket, her phone rang. It was the tech company, inviting her for an interview the next day. They were in haste to fill the position, as it was an urgent contract.

It was not raining the next day, but she took the umbrella with her anyway. She had to ask for directions twice before finding the building’s location, and realized she was running circles around it once she finally got to the door. She was escorted to the manager’s office. When his secretary opened his door to usher her in, she saw the surprise taking over his face. He was stirred by the smell of wild lilies that infiltrated his office. A smile found its way onto his otherwise strict appearance and she felt relieved. But she had not recognized the stranger from the umbrella store. Her glance fell instead onto his computer screen. He was reading an article that asked, “Is there such a thing as a coincidence? Or is it a carefully devised cosmic plan that has some hidden purpose we don’t understand? Do things really happen for a reason? Or are we the ones who give reason to the things that happen?

Interesting question, she thought, and smiled as she recognized his black umbrella from the previous day, standing tall by his desk. She looked up and saw him gazing at her, mesmerized by the turn of events. “Well this is an interesting start,” he laughed.

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