Essays

On Kindness

Contemplation of ‘Why?’ we learn, adhere to, and behave in certain ways has always intrigued me – one such question is:

“Why do we find it necessary to be kind?”

One of the many tediously bland, and reasonless, lessons we are taught by adults when we are kids is the importance of having manners, using the magic words (please, and thank you), and ultimately to be “nice” and “kind” as a person and to others.

We accept this lesson and abide by its mechanics of superficial social normalcy and grow to be adults who are simply swifter and more versed in the platitudes of gratitude than our younger-former selves.

But, why is kindness important? Why is it so necessary?

I do not have the answer, but consider this:

Consider the idea of a world in which others were not kind; it would come with revelations we so desperately endeavored to disallow ourselves the simple awareness that we are deeply sensitive to our unconvinced legitimacy for existing. The alarming sensitivity to our own value, our worth, our claims to happiness and love, our own goodness and our uncomprehending deservedness of attention, acknowledgment, and our ultimate fate and legacy.

We are taught kindness not for others but with the hope of its return to us. We despair for the validation against our own self-loathing through the tiniest of gestures that we are bestowed, like a smile, a door held open, anything to convince us against our inner pains and battles of questioning our worthiness to continue.

Kindness being traded as a currency from which we purchase little plots of emotional survival. After all, if there is no one around to see our shattering hearts, does it make a sound?

Once we learn the value and power kindness bestows upon us – the ability to be the savior of another from their own self-contempt – the kinder we become through the desperate need of others to be kind to us.

As we grow in our understanding of self-knowledge, we do not cling to social norms and manners as a cause for a kinder world but do so through the awareness of the existence of the duality of this world – if it’s not kindness, we are left with cruelty, or worse; indifference.

We grow kinder through our pain and our acute desperation for it to end and ultimately, our desirous craving of some evidence of our right to exist.

Be kind.

Nothing lasts forever, and never has forever had such a short life span as in love and relationships.

It was probably the French-Swiss film director, Jean-Luc Godard, who said it best:

“A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order.”

Continue reading →

On Affairs

When one is wronged, it is easy to feel angry. Anger robs us of the necessary sobriety of thought we need to grieve – something the end of an intimate relationship may need. Anger hi-jacks us of our faculties of thought required to think clearly and deeply about our loss. Continue reading →

In Praise of Melancholy

As a species and a society, we have grown to over romanticize and popularize happiness and have exiled all feelings of the contrary to the unpopular and unwanted crevices of human emotion.

We strive only to increase those things that make us happy or that bring happiness to us, and at the slightest surfacing of alternate emotions we do everything we possibly can to “cheer” ourselves up and those around us. We forcibly excise sadness and inflate happiness.

We forget, or at least we do not realize, that what makes us complete individuals is our ability to access the full spectrum of human experience as well as the whole psycho-emotional range – low and high – enabling us to create rich, multi-dimensional, and meaningful lives. Continue reading →

An Open Letter to Myself

Dear Leo,

Its me, you.

You and I have been on quite a journey together. We have been through it all; side-by-side. We have cried on our knees at 3am, on the shower floor, we have laughed on mountain tops, and smiled at sunrises. You and I, together, always.

You have been on quite the journey this past year.

I have seen you enter this year at what some might say was the highest you have ever been. I have watched you fall, plummet even, to the very depths of despair.

I have seen you have everything your heart ever wanted.
I have seen you lose it all, slowly, suddenly, cruelly, repeatedly.

I have seen you ecstatically plan for the future.
I have seen you feel each passing moment to be one moment too long lived.

Through it all, side-by-side, we have learned some important lessons.

One of the most important lessons learned:

I should have been the one to love you, to encourage you, to hold you up, to hug you, and to appreciate you.

Instead, I left you to watch those you loved, leave; and thus allowed you to feel unworthy of love, of care, of appreciation, even my own.

I allowed you to listen to the judgements of others.
I made you feel like you needed to defend yourself.
The judgements of others have nothing to do with you, they fear in you what they cannot bare within themselves; it is not your burden to carry, I am sorry I put it on your shoulders.

I am sorry, so sorry.
You are enough.

I know you are going through hard times right now. That life hasn’t given you what you hoped and hasn’t turned out the way you thought it would. I know you are disappointed and sometimes feel like a failure or that it is all your fault.

Together, we have learned that life is short, happy moments are rare, nothing lasts forever, and not everyone’s love is unconditional. These difficult insights are not as sad as they seem; they have given you gifts of wisdom that will prove to make you a far better man for it.

Often, the happiest moments of our lives are viewed in hindsight. Therefore, when life gives you a perfect moment, a beautiful sunny day, a deep and wonderful conversation, you need to drop everything and seize it. A good life is made up of a collection of these moments.

As Morgan Matson, an American novelist, said: “A thousand moments that I had just taken for granted — mostly because I had assumed there would be a thousand more.”

One of the key problems of life: we reject difficult but important knowledge because it comes wrapped the wrong way. The hardships we oft may face are, in hindsight, the greatest blessings/lessons we could ever wish upon ourselves.

Our hardships force us into new versions of ourselves that we may have never become without its cruel but necessary nudging.

“The most important thing to remember is this:
to be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.”
— W. E. B. Du Bois

Every new level of being will require a different you to conquer it.

It is how one responds to life that determines where the next step of living is placed. Most importantly, we should no longer be surprised by what life throws at us: good or bad; when Seneca wrote that “nothing happens to the wise man contrary to his expectation,” this is partly what he meant.

The reason that so many failures are devastating to us is that we never consider that things could happen any other way but the way we wanted them to.

Marcus Aurelius, another stoic, wrote:
“The impediment to action advances action.
What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Time is limited. Failures are inevitable. Action is unavoidable.
If we realize this to the point of practice, we will no longer spend time on that which is not worthy of it, we will fail quickly and intelligently, and understand that practice makes possible and permanent, not perfect.

Just after your darkest hour the sun will rise. When you were in your darkest hours, feeling it pointless holding on, you held on anyway and the sun rose and shorn its light once again.

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words, “And this too, shall pass.”

In the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln: “How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

If there are more moments in your future, expect times worse than this, but also know that there will be brighter ones too.

Do not stop loving, Do not stop caring, Do not stop being you.

Above all else, be true to yourself.
Its gotten you this far.

I love you,
You, me.

At WordCamp Cape Town this year, I gave talk on Mental Wellness, the WordPress Community, and You. An unusual talk for a tech conference, but one which needed to be spoken about – and I had no idea how it would go down.



Watch on WordPress.tv

Summary:

The main point of this talk was to raise awareness at the intensity, the struggle, and the seriousness of various Mental Wellness issues within our current space.

To raise the awareness of Employers who have Employees with issues, for Employees to understand their colleagues and employers better, for people to change the way they think about mental health in general.

To remove the stigma that mental wellness issues have, especially in the working environment, and even more so in our daily lives for those who live with it.

During my talk, I told my story. Maybe one day I will talk about it more here, but here are the main points I touched on:

  • We have too many people living in our midst who need help, but do not get it, and who are too afraid by the stigma to seek it and talk out.
  • I was one of them, I said the three hardest words during my talk: I have depression.
  • As a society, when someone breaks their arm, we run to sign their casts, but when someone has a mental issue we run the other way. We are okay with any body part breaking down, except our brains, our minds. This needs to change.
  • When you have a broken leg, you cannot leave it outside the office doors when you walk in in the morning – why do we expect this too of people who have mental health issues?
  • People should be as okay with speaking to someone on a regular basis, like a therapist, life coach, psychologist or psychiatrist. We should have subscriptions to these just as we have gyms subscriptions for our physical wellness.
  • Employers need to be more open and understanding, currently we are very far away from this.
  • Employees need to be more open with helping themselves, and seeking the help they need, or being supportive of their peers who need it.
  • We all need to be more open and understanding of the current state of Mental Wellness in the world.
  • When we ask people “How are you?” we need to starting caring about their truthful reply. When we are asked “How are you?” we need to start being more open and brave to give an honest reply. On the day of WordCamp, before my talk, I was asked sixteen times how I was, I lied sixteen times.
  • Started the WordPress Hashtag called #WPHugs, a way of sharing, appreciating and caring within the community.
  • I need you, you need us, we need each other. People need people.
  • When someone has an issue, in my case depression, people believe that its simply because of the things going on in their lives that are not going well. This is often furthest from the truth. In my case, life was at its best and I was depressed, absent, and in that time I started losing hold of life: Been through break-ups, losing friends, losing a home, feeling more hopeless, work performance dropped, and not being able to have any say or control of any of it. Those around me thought I was depressed, because these things happened. No, because I was depressed these things happened.
  • Depression is something that we know to be so common, yet know and speak the least about, as with all mental wellness issues. Its time this ended, I began the end of silence by telling the world my story, maybe you would be brave enough to tell yours? Or open enough to listen to anothers?
  • As an open source community that relies on the work of the people behind the scenes that make this possible, we need to also spread the idea of 5 for the future for ourselves, you cannot pour from an empty cup so before giving back, start giving within.
  • Stop the Silence, Remove the Stigma, Care.

After my talk, so many people opened their hearts out to me and for that I am extremely grateful. I was more than surprised at how well this was received and about how many people had been suffering in silence and are now brave enough to speak out.

Cory Miller, a very brave man told his story which inspired me to tell mine, will you tell yours? You can leave a comment or send me a link (Totally open to coffee too.)

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