MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “appearances”

The off-course bus

http://ttvalueinvesting.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/route.jpgIt arrived on time and appeared just like any other of its type. It had four double doors symmetrically situated across one end, large windows, and an advertisement painted across both sides. From its exterior, it seemed like a normal bus. Even inside, it did not differ from others – it had enough space for passengers to be seated or standing and it was in great condition. Almost new. But there was something that made this bus special. You couldn’t tell at first. And most of all, you never expected what would come.

You would stop the bus at the stop and get on, maybe even find a seat. You presumed it would take you to your destination – the city centre – relatively quickly. But half way there, the bus would suddenly change course. If you were too distracted in your own thoughts it would take you a while to realise you were off course. Others would acknowledge it as soon as the bus took a “wrong” turn. Some passengers would react. Others would stress that they would be late for their appointments. Some others would simply remain silent, waiting to see what would happen. The driver would not respond to any.

After a while, you would realise the bus was not going to the city centre. The passengers that reacted intensely would soon tire and be quiet. And as the bus took an unknown route, almost all passengers would begin to plan scenarios in their head of where they would end up. These ranged from a serial killer bus driver that would throw them off a cliff, to a surprise destination where a millionaire would host a party to advertise a new acquisition. You would conjure in your head whatever you wanted, but you would be well aware that expectation was always the root of all disappointment. So you would try and pretend that you didn’t care where the bus was going.

After a long while, the bus would return to its course and, taking double time, would end up at the city centre, where it was supposed to be going in the first place. But, during that route, all passengers would have calmed down and, lost in their thoughts, dreams and mental to-do-lists, would not realise they had arrived. That was the point of this bus – to make you understand that what matters most is the route and how you get to your destination, not so much your final point of arrival.

The measure of wealth

https://www.extracobanks.com/img/measure-tape-money.jpgJoy was a girl who personified the meaning of her name. She was a wave of optimism walking into the room. Her eyes sparkled when she smiled and her good mood easily transmitted to those around her. She loved to please people, to entertain and have a good time. But most of all she loved the preparation for it: the elegant clothes, the glistening jewels, the chic hair-dos. They all belonged to the process of feeling good and showing it. Yet, these were all things that required money. Joy didn’t have a problem with that, so she didn’t really take into account how much she was actually spending each month on these “little luxuries”. She had the ability to do so.

Until she didn’t.

It was one day at the end of winter that was resisting the imminent arrival of Spring. The company manager called all the employees into the glass conference room and announced solemnly that the end had come. The company could no longer cope financially in the increasingly competitive market. So it was letting everyone go and was dissolving overnight.

People didn’t immediately realise all the consequences this involved. It was not just the fact that they would become another statistic in the rising unemployment rates. It was not that they would have to face an uncertain period of idleness. It was the fact that without an income, they would all have to start counting their pennies. Literally.

When that thought struck Joy’s mind, that is when the clouds set in.

Because, now, when her friends invited her out and expected her to show up glowing and glittering under the stars, sipping cocktails on roof gardens, and dancing in extravagantly decorated ballrooms, Joy had to maintain appearances. She had to continue living up to her name, despite the fact that her sparkle had faded. She was no longer carefree, because she witnessed day by day her bank account shrinking. And until she found another source of income, she had to restrict her outings. She was confused, though. She couldn’t stay in and do nothing, see no-one, out of financial fears. How did everyone else do it? All those others who earned so much less than she did?

One night, when the full moon lit dimly over the city’s so-called “high society” or wannabe-elites, Joy stood in a corner of the room and paused. She looked around, observing the crowd that had become part of her usual outings. Their clothes, their shoes, their hairstyles, their hand gestures, their body postures, the intonation of their voices, their fake smiles. She wondered when she had allowed herself to become so superficial, thinking that because of the money she so carelessly threw around, she would “fit-in” and become likeable. She had become so drawn-in to this lifestyle that she had forgotten the true meaning of her own name.

She ran out, saying goodbye to no-one.

She rushed home and called him. Him, who was always there for her through everything, but whom she so often failed to acknowledge.

“Let’s go get lost,” she said to the other end of the line. Her voice was trembling with excitement on the verge of shrieking. “Let’s just go there, to our island, to our room-to-rent by the beach and retreat away from it all. There on our balcony gazing at the sea, with the breeze blowing gently and the waves crashing on the rocks. You can work online, and I’ll write a book. On how the real measure of our wealth in life, is how much we would be worth if we’d lost all our money and were left with only the things that can’t be bought. I get it now…”

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Countless

A World of Shock

disaster_capitalismYou know that old woman who shoved you while hurrying to get off the bus this morning? She was running to get to the hospital, as her husband suffered a heart attack while she was at the market. And remember that young man getting sunburnt on the side of the pavement where he was rooted, who even offered his blessing when you stopped to hand him some change? Two hours later, his cousin dropped by in a fancy car, picked him up and went to the beach.

Things are not always what they seem. Nor can we even imagine what the reality is truly like. In a world marred by constant talk of crisis, sensationalist media reports, and the looming pessimism of disasters – be they natural, financial, political or even moral – we live in a constant state of instability and shock. We are fighting nervous breakdowns by pretending we’re OK, by keeping on moving, by refusing to even consider what would happen if we stopped and breathed it all in.

People all around us seem so different, even though we share common ground. Nonetheless, all we mostly see – or chose to acknowledge – is the extent to which we vary from each other. And this usually always means that “the others” are most often luckier, more privileged, and “have it easy”. Or even that those who have managed to travel beyond the continent, somehow have returned deeming themselves over and above their compatriots, as if now they are somehow better than everyone else, as if they no longer belong to this world. There are people like that. Who managed to rise up from the slums into a life of riches, and all of a sudden, they have become too important to deal with “petty commoners”, or even “locals”. Those who rise from their ashes remembering their past and helping others survive it too are, unfortunately, a rarity in this world.

In one of the most enthralling, shocking, riveting, and illuminating books of modern times, Naomi Klein describes exactly this. How we live in a world of shock. How certain capitalists pursue a “Shock Doctrine” in order to impose Milton Friedman’s Chicago School model of deregulation, privatization, and cut of public spending. It reveals our world as it truly is, one run by capitalism that has no interest for its human impact. She dubs this “Disaster Capitalism”, because it concerns big private companies profiting at the expense of the poorer and lower down on the social scale, whenever disaster (in any form) strikes. It is the implementation of a shock and awe policy. Simply considering the world we live in today – this constant state of “crisis” – it is not hard to see that certain international institutions (the International Monetary Fund, for example) are doing exactly this – demanding that their terms be implemented if money is to be disbursed; terms that include drastic spending cuts, VAT increases, privatisations, cuts in the public sector, no matter what that may mean to the levels of unemployment, poverty and a break in the social chasm. According to this powerful book, the only thing that shines some optimism among us, is the fact that memory is the strongest shock absorber of all, and the only one capable of providing resistance to the repeating of such events.

No matter what you read, or if you don’t read at all, Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” is an eye-opening book that everyone – every politician who is not an idiot, every citizen who wants to make a difference, every person who refuses to be a lemming – should read. You will never view the world in the same way ever again.

Saying ‘yes’ to ‘no’

Very busy manIt’s nice to be nice. But how nice is nice? Lost? Everyone wants to be appreciated and thought of kindly. And for this, many choose to act as such too. Often it leads to doing things over and above your limits or endurance. It means going out of your way to please other people, sometimes at the expense of your very self. But sometimes, all you have to do is simply say ‘no’.

It’s not easy, but sometimes it is necessary.

Trying to please everyone and be on top of everything, controlling as much as you can, because of the popular belief that ‘if not done by you, it won’t be done right’, will at one point of other result in more than just a perpetual state of “busyness”. It will lead to burnout. And then, being nice is no longer an option. It simply does not exist.

Like this amazing article explains, “burnout happens when you’ve been experiencing chronic stress for so long that your body and your emotional system have begun to shut down and are operating in survival mode.” It leads you into a state where you are unsure about everything, cannot make decisions, do not want to do anything, and have no desire to snap out of it either. It is close to depression, but with the added exhaustion, both physical and mental.

We tend to live in societies where being available 24/7 is seen as advantage but feels like the exact opposite. We need to feel the constant vibrations of phone calls, or hear the constant bleeps of emails and messages arriving to feel important. That’s why we spend most of our day with our faces stuck in a screen, to the point where we even fall asleep with these still in hand.

Somewhere along the line of technological development, we forgot that we are human beings, and transformed into “human doings”. We are the ones who created this “disease of being busy”. And we now occupy a world in which “we have more and more and more to do, with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just… be?”

We have become so wired up, that it actually feels strange when we have nothing to do. As if it is a sin to not run around constantly. Life coaches themselves state that we need to allow ourselves a little break every now and then; to say “yes” to life by saying “no” a little more often. To allow ourselves to wonder at the marvels around us, to enjoy the small pleasures of life, to actually live.

We cannot please everyone. And no matter how hard we try, we never will. So why don’t we all just try to do the best we can, and enjoy the little time we have in this world. It all starts with two letters: “no”. Sometimes it’s all it takes. And if said as nicely as possible, you won’t lose face. You will just be seen as a person who knows and admits to their limits. And that takes more courage than struggling to do everything.

 

No one is too busy in this world. It’s all about priorities”.

The truth you’ll never know

icebergIt’s hard to be perfect. No matter if it is just keeping up the appearance of being faultless.

Joseph knew it well. All his life he was trying to prove himself to others – even to his family and friends. That he was different. That he wasn’t like the rest of the guys out there. He had something special boiling up inside him and was striving to find a way to let it out. All amidst friendly mockery and criticism that he took on like a clown – with a smile on the outside and a frown inside.

But he never told anyone about this. Not even Alicia. He just wanted her to be happy. He was happy as long as she was. And that was all that mattered.

At least that was how he felt. Most of the time.

They were both trying to get ahead in their careers. Alicia had motivated him to reach higher. But it seemed that no matter what they did, no matter how many applications they sent, no matter how much networking they did, nothing seemed to work. There was no window opening up. Not even a mouse-hole.

And at work it all seemed to pile up. He was getting more and more jobs assigned to him, which of course he could do given his extraordinary skills, but under normal circumstances it would take another two people to share the tasks. Yet no matter how efficiently and accurately he responded to his obligations, there always seemed to be someone coming back and asking for more.

Alicia was at her limits too, as she was facing a similar situation at work and was being suffocated under never-ending workloads that seemed to proliferate instead of decrease.

Joseph had to listen to her complain, while she tried to console him when his turn came to externalize his agitation.

But one day, Joseph felt something was wrong. He woke up with a numbness in his feet and stumbled on the way to the bathroom. Something that had never happened before. He didn’t tell Alicia. There was no need to make her worry.

The doctor he immediately saw told him that unfortunately they detected a genetic mutation that caused an unforeseen illness to develop. Something that would require extensive, prolonged and continuous treatment.

Joseph felt the ground from under his feet disappear. He could feel the blood flushing out of his brain and rushing to his heart, which was beating like a drum. Cold sweat trickled down his spine, as he attempted to remain conscious. He could hear all his dreams shatter right in front of him. Right at that moment. Because everything would be different now.

At work, it was just another tedious day with demands piling up and everyone nagging about each other. It was bad enough he had his company to worry about, Alicia wanted to lash out on someone about her own ordeal.

And that was the moment he cracked. The moment when he felt it was better to behave like a jackass and get her to move away from him than make her suffer with him this unexpected future. It was easier to be the guy she hated. The person who did not deserve her. To make her see that she deserved better. It was better to break his own heart into a thousand pieces than force her to change her own dreams for his sake. For a future that no-one knew what it would bring and how.

Alicia ran away from him, with the image of a prince turning into a beast in her head.

And Joseph, he closed up inside his shell, hoping that one day she would understand – that he loved her so much, he let her go.

Burning bridges

BURNING bridgesAlicia was in love with a prince charming. At least that’s what she felt like. He had swept her off her feet from the moment she laid eyes on him. He was no ordinary Jo. He was the sweetest and most romantic guy she had met. His name was Joseph. And the first day he saw her she literally fell onto him. She was late for a meeting and he just stepped out of one. They worked in neighbouring offices in the greenest capital in the world. That was most convenient of all. Because for lunch they could easily escape for a picnic in the park, feeding leftovers to the ducks and geese, and playing with the chipmunks running up the tree barks.

Their romance seemed perfect. So perfect it actually scared Alicia.

Nothing could be this perfect.

Joseph was the type of guy who would open doors for her; who would pull her chair up and allow her to sit first before joining her at the table; who would buy flowers for no reason, simply to remind her that he loved her; who would listen and know exactly what she needed almost before she even said it. He was charming. Almost prince-like.

And Alicia loved that about him. That she felt so comfortable around him. She could be herself. Laugh, cry, yell, scream. She could do it all because she knew he would understand and he would support her.

Or so she thought.

There comes a time when everybody cracks and reveals a side of him no one knew was there.

And when Joseph cracked, there was an eruption.

The ludicrous and never-ending demands at work, combined with Alicia’s overbooked schedule and her super-tensed nerves, brought him over the edge. And he exploded. Like never before.

He told Alicia she was selfish and always blamed him for everything that went wrong. That she was so easily aggravated and constantly took it out on him. That she didn’t even know what she wanted anymore and aimed so highly for it all that in the end she would be left with nothing. He fired at her with no mercy and left her standing alone.

Alicia knew she had issues, but so did everybody. She thought, however, a love that bound two people was strong enough to surpass them all. Apparently she was wrong.

What she saw that day was an image she would never forget. It was a prince charming turning into an ugly beast. A monster with a frozen heart and claws dripping with blood.

She ran to the park, crawled up onto the bark of a tree and let the tears flow down her face. A chipmunk timidly appeared and slowly perched in her arms. She felt the warmth of its fuzzy coat embrace her like a tender consolation.

When bridges are burnt, no matter how strongly they are re-built (if at all), they are never the same.

The material we wear

AirstewardessHave you ever noticed how people in uniform have a different “air” about them? It is as if all of a sudden that piece of clothing they wear adds elegance and status to them. Be it soldiers, firemen, policemen, astronauts, nurses, pilots, even scouts, waiters and pupils, uniforms make the bearer feel all important.

It is no wonder that one of the most popular romantic fantasies involves the use of uniform.

But why does this specific clothing makes us all feel bigger, better and brighter?

It is not actually the clothing itself – although uniforms usually are made of better quality material. It is the significance attributed to the uniform. It is the discipline that is associated with it. The fact that in order to properly wear the uniform it means you will be clean, shaven, hair combed, and almost doll-like perfect. It is the entire image it purports. And particularly the fact that to wear the uniform you must usually gain the right to, by proving your worth through exams or physical tests of some sort.

It is interesting to note how when we’re young at school we usually despise wearing uniforms, but when we grow up we often strive to become part of a uniform-wearing team or profession. It is the sense of belonging, the camaraderie, the prestige associated with the clothing that makes it all the more enticing.

We just need to remember, it is not the clothing that makes us important, it’s the other way around.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: The Clothes (May) Make the (Wo)man

The Power of Illusions

Perception-3There is a popular saying that “all that glitters is not gold”. And it is true. What appears to be one way, doesn’t necessarily mean it is truly so. A pretty house may hide inside it deserted rooms covered in cobwebs. Just like a big smile, may be masking unexpressed pain. Illusions have a huge part in our lives. But we often fail to realize how great their power actually is.

What appears to give a location or a person wealth, luxury and comfort does not completely cover up the fact that behind the expensive stores and villas, people may be found living out of makeshift homes, just like the favelas in Rio de Janeiro. Just because this is not publicized enough, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Recently, for example, with the ongoing demonstrations in Turkey, CNN Turk was avoiding any news on the matter and instead broadcasting cooking shows. Yet, just outside their door a riot was breaking out and overtaking the headlines of international news media.

The amount and type of publicity something takes, greatly impacts on your psychology too. Advertising a destination as rich, colourful and luxurious, creates the illusion that there can be no wrong there, no danger, no risk. And yet, when a tsunami hits the very shores you are bathing at, you are caught unprepared, as that crystalline illusion is washed away in a surge of a tidal wave.

In crisis-struck countries of southern Europe, such as Greece, negative publicity creates an image in tourists’ minds that streets are filled with unbridled immigrants who are waiting for the opportune moment to attack, steal and plunder. That shopping streets are closed and deserted. That nationalistic sentiment has overtaken the calm and peaceful mentality that once was. And that no one is safe in a country full of crime, corruption and offences. But that is not the case. And it is truly a shame that such negative propaganda is what wins over the reality of a country as beautiful as Greece. That despite the crisis, and the unavoidable impact it has had particularly on small businesses, it still maintains its pride and life still goes on as usual, as people try to cope with the new laws, the additional cuts, and the extra taxes. But this negativity spreading internationally does not help. For people enter the country with the illusion that they might get attacked any minute now, and fear overwhelms them, as they look at all those faces travelling alongside them in the metro, and create conspiracy theories in their head. To the point that in the end they become afraid of even their own shadow.

Illusions work both ways. Not everything publicized as bad exists without any hidden trace of good; but neither does all that is advertised as perfect not bury something bad. Just as there are two sides to each coin, there are too sides to each story. And even though looking for both may risk you being dubbed a skeptic, it is better to know the whole story, rather than half the truth.

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