Archive for lessons

Confirming my place in the world

Posted in Journalism with tags , , , , , on 12 January 2009 by Maggie

Have you ever felt like you were just tired of learning, tired of teaching, tired of…well, just tired?  I am tired.  I’m not looking forward to going to the university tomorrow, and it’s not because the weather is going to be crap.  It’s because I want to finish what I am doing here.  I cram 80 hours of work and writing – or try to – into the time span from 6 p.m. Friday night to 5 a.m. Monday morning.  Weeknights after I get home are lost, and my best hours are daylight hours, anyway.

I did a little thinking about the blog I wrote today and came to the realisation that we all need to take the initiative to learn about other places, even if we never plan to go there.  You have to “get” the culture, “get” the religion, “get” what’s going on behind what you read, or you won’t “get” what you read.   The journalists are certainly not going to help you understand.  They rarely understand, themselves.

The world perpetuates “the news”, which perpetuates the need to learn and understand what you’re not going to catch just by watching and/or reading “the news”.  And the people about whom “the news” no longer seems worthy to report still deserve the time.  Maybe they aren’t the hottest story out there, but the issues themselves don’t die out.

Despite our best efforts, we are not alone in the world.  Non-Western civilisations deserve to be understood, even if we don’t necessarily agree with all the positions they may take, or the philosophies they have. 

As long as there are Westerners in the world whose minds have yet to be opened, I will continue to write…and thus my place in the world is confirmed.



Posted in General with tags , , , , on 28 November 2008 by Maggie

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

It is a quiet day today. Because of an odd turn of events, I am not going to my daughter’s, after all. This is okay. We’re going to have a combination Thanksgiving/Christmas over a four-day period in December…the 11th through the 14th.

You must understand that I am not particularly fussed about the tradition of Thanksgiving. No one really remembers why we have the holiday in the first place, or the history of it, or how it came to be that we have it on the fourth Thursday in November. It’s an illogical choice of days by historically meteorological standards, and if you don’t believe me, look it up. If you have trouble finding the information, let me know.

The essential thing about the holiday, however, is that you get an entire day off in which you can reflect on those things, people and memories for which you are thankful. Here’s a basic list of those things for which I am thankful on a personal level:

I am thankful for the atmosphere in which I was raised. I came from an old-money family on my mother’s side, full of artists, musicians, ambassadors, diplomats, politically powerful people. I learned an appreciation for the fine arts, protocol, professionalism, the letter of the law, an intolerance for ignorance, and the importance of building a network that supports you in exceptional circumstances. I came from a long line of missionaries and charity workers on my father’s side. I learned how to handle myself in third-world situations…and about compassion, patience, understanding, the essential goodness of the human condiion, and the effect of outside forces on that human condition that create the human experience.

I am thankful that I was raised to fully appreciate my Scottish and Belgian heritage. I credit my great-grandmother with teaching me the importance of understanding where you came from in order to understand where you are going. She is also responsible for my great love of archaeology and anthropology.

I am thankful I was raised to appreciate the role of belief structures and culture in the world around us. I credit my grandfather with encouraging my search for answers to the questions I asked when I was eight years old. He taught me respect, and to resist closing my mind. After more than 45 years guided by the echo of his voice, I think I have resisted well.

I am thankful for my children, and I am grateful for the adults they have become. I couldn’t be more proud of each of them. They will make a terrific mark in this world in their own ways.

I am thankful for friends and acquaintances who have brightened the nooks and crannies of my life. Each of them, whether we have remained in contact or not over the years, have had an impact on my experiences and helped shape who I am today.

I am thankful for the men who have loved me, and who I have loved, over the years. I battled hard against the lessons these relationships tried to teach me. This year, I have finally learned how to handle the undercurrent of my own stubborn fears – fear of sharing, fear of closeness, fear of pain, fear of emotion, fear of singular devotion – all of those things that caused me to run. It has been a long road, but as Edward Albee once wrote, “Sometimes you have to go the long way around to come back the short way correctly.” I am no longer stubborn. I no longer fear. I am cautious, but content in the knowledge that loving and being loved is still a part of my future, as is one good and strong lasting relationship. It’s right in front of me. I just need to take it easy, take it slow and let it happen the way it should.

And that gives me hope – something for which I am also thankful.