AidBlogs

What's all this then?

Many aid workers keep online journals called web logs, or "blogs" for short. Blogs tend to be very personal, to present unabashedly biased opinions and to be much less formal than an organization's web site. Blogs are sometimes provocative, and some may make you feel uncomfortable -- you certainly won't agree with everything you read in blogs, including those produced by aid workers.

The AWN blog portal presents a range of aid worker-produced blogs from around the world. However, AWN is not responsible for the content of any of these blogs, and inclusion here on the AWN blog portal in no way endorses their content by AWN. If you disagree with what a blog has presented, by all means, write the blog author ("blogger") directly and let him or her know what you think.

If you would like to submit a blog by an aid, relief or development worker, please complete this form.

Building in Failure

Humanitarian.info - February 5, 2013 - 5:45pm

After years of sniping from the sidelines, I have finally begun to write my critique of the humanitarian sector. Central to the critique is an idea that I haven’t seen discussed in the humanitarian sector – indeed, I haven’t seen it discussed anywhere, although I doubt that it’s a new idea. The idea is that all human-built systems – and some (but not all) natural systems – have failure built into them.

We build failure into systems when they are explicitly or implicitly designed for one thing but we expect them to do another. The reasons why we might do this are many and varied, but it need not be a conscious effort. Individual humans are perfectly capable of saying one thing but doing another; individual organisations are even more capable of this, especially when they grow sufficiently large and diverse; and in systems comprised of multiple organisations with diverse interests, it is almost inevitable.

This is particularly true as the external environment changes over time, since the growth of systems is essentially an evolutionary process. New approaches are tried, and if they succeed (and we need not strictly define what we mean by succeed) they are passed on to the next generation. Each new iteration builds on the changes in the previous iteration; as changes build and build on each other, they become locked in place, a process known as path dependency. Once you get far enough down a specific path, it is not possible to jump to another path, or even to retrace your steps and take another path.

What this means in practice is that the systems that we build for one purpose cannot be re-directed to another purpose easily – and it may not be possible to re-direct them at all. This does not mean that change is impossible: there can always be improvements within the system, but the system itself cannot be radically changed. In some ways, the fact that improvements are possible within the system is itself problematic, since they frequently lead people to believe that these incremental steps are inevitably leading towards the radical change that they really want. This is not necessarily the case.

We can see examples of this in other sectors. Western militaries that developed organically as part of the formation of the nation state were able to transition to the Cold War by pretending that the territorial conflict they were designed for had not been rendered irrelevant by nuclear weapons. With the end of the Cold War, their utility became questionable until the declaration of the “global war on terror”, once again cast as territorial conflict, when it was anything but.

The expansion of western militaries into humanitarian intervention and disaster relief should be seen in this light. Such expansion demonstrates that the military has developed; but even when given clear direction, however, the military cannot simply be re-purposed. They may be able to establish and maintain a field hospital which can provide medical care for large numbers of people, but they cannot turn themselves into a national health system. This seems very obvious, but wait:

The role of national health system is exactly the role that humanitarian NGOs have played in Afghanistan. If we do not believe military organisations can be re-purposed in this way, why should we believe that humanitarian organisations can? Have those agencies been able to fill that role successfully? The short answer is no. “An estimated 70% of medical programs in the country have been implemented by aid organizations” and “82% of the entire population lives in districts where primary care services are provided by NGOs under contracts with the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan or through grants” the Afghan health care system remains largely a shambles.

The managerialist response to this is threefold. First, we blame political processes: sclerotic, corrupt or otherwise, we can shift the blame to those making the decisions about how to set up and run the system. Second, we blame resource constraints: lack of funding, lack of staff, lack of equipment, some of the responsibility must surely go to the difficult operating environment. Third, we blame organisational capacity: if only we could invest in e.g. management skills, then the system would work much more effectively.

All of these things are true, but all of them mask the real truth: the humanitarian system simply cannot deliver what is asked of it. This goes beyond the criticism that health services are not “fit for purpose”, because that phrase suggests that they can be made fit with the right political decisions, sufficient resources and improved capacity. This is not an attack on those NGO and government staff providing health care in extremely difficult circumstances; it is an attack on we who expect them to fill a role that they cannot possibly fill.

The aid system was set up and subsequently developed (although mostly unplanned) to work in a particular way that did not include relatively new concerns such as coordination, accountability, transparency or even efficiency. Despite this, we persist in believing that a few key initiatives – training more humanitarian co-oordinators, for example, or establishing organisational certification – can transform the entire sector, making it possible to do things that it was never designed to do. This seems unlikely, to say the least.

That’s the diagnosis – what is the treatment? I believe that there are three specific requirements:

  1. We need to become more aware of systemic constraints. In particular we need to have more reasonable expectations about what type and size of change is possible given those constraints.
  2. We need to address the fact that the system itself is likely to collapse due to changes in the external environment, or shift to a new equilibrium that is not necessarily recognisable to us, and prepare for that contingency.
  3. We need to recognise and restate that the critical factor that distinguishes the humanitarian system from other delivery channels (such as the military) is not its relative effectiveness, but the values that it embodies.

In practice we need to begin building alternative systems to a) fill in the gaps in capability based on those constraints, b) eventually replace the system and c) ensure that the values that the system was originally meant to deliver continue to be delivered, even if the current system does not survive. Unfortunately at present, all our efforts are focused on option a) because it is the most visible and most accessible; but investing only in this single option guarantees failure in the other two. We need to expand our conception of how the humanitarian system actually works, rather than how we would like it to work.

Related posts:

  1. Building an Emergency Operations Center on Groove and SharePoint
  2. Talking smack about reinventing Haiti
  3. A feature not a bug

Categories: AidBlogs

New Blog

Louder than Swahili - June 24, 2011 - 11:50am

I don't blog on louder than swahili any longer.

Please, visit me on my newest blog here.


Categories: AidBlogs

English Talent Show Part 2!

Faster than a falling coconut - June 8, 2010 - 12:04pm

Crossing my fingers and hoping this works . . .

Categories: AidBlogs

English Talent Show Part 1!!!!!!

Faster than a falling coconut - June 8, 2010 - 5:43am
Hellllllllllloooooooooooooooo pessoal!!!!!!! How does this find everyone!THings couldn't be more hectic this morning . . . and because of the stubborn lethargy of this internet connection I'm not sure exactly what will make it to your side of the mundo. Hopefully the video will play. There will be more to come. From the Youth Training Center's last English Talent Show!
The crowd anxiously awaits the first performance, which will be . . .
A duet by Amade and Alex, Abba's "I Have a Dream" Up next Teacher Dunija and Zania, Celine Dion's "I'm Alive" The crowd loving every second!


A trio, "You're Still The One" by one of Mozambique's favorite, Shania Twain. GOsh, I hope this works.
Please, reader, do know this is a very miniscule sampling of the musical renditions of the night. We're still missing James Blunt, Chris Brown, Bryan Adams, Mariah Carey and more! I'll try the connection later, hopefully I can post more clips.Love to all,Alex
Categories: AidBlogs

New Kinshasa blog

Extra extra - February 1, 2010 - 9:59am

Extra Extra is no longer being updated. May I suggest you take a look at Solo Kinshasa?

Categories: AidBlogs

4 More NLP exercises by Bandler: Exams, Study, Motivation, Money

iDevelopWorld - December 21, 2009 - 2:53am

 

Continuing on from my previous NLP and Bandler post, you must be more interested to learn some other Neuro-Linguistic Programming exercises. (Visit the previous post to learn more about the fundamental NLP concept of submodalities.)

The following 4 NLP exercises are also excerpted from Bandler’s “Getting the Life You Want.” The great thing about Bandler’s book is that he provides the NLP exercises in an easy-to-read manner. They’re easily accessible and organised well.

These 4 exercises stood out for me and I want to remember them, and by recording them here, these exercises may help you too!

 

Getting Through Exams

  1. Before you study, organize your study so you make it similar to the kinds of circumstances you’ll face in the exams.
  2. Remember a time you felt confident, excited, and superbly focused. See what you saw, hear what you heard, and feel how you felt. Amplify the feeling.
  3. As you study take time to look at particular notes you have and practice hallucinating them in different locations around the room. Do so until you can see them anywhere you put them by imaging them vividly.
  4. When you go into the exam, bring about the same state of confidence, excitement, and superb focus again and spin the feeling.
  5. Begin to answer each question but imagine being back in your room and hallucinate the answers in front of you in the same way.
  6. See yourself vividly and notice the way you are smiling, breathing, standing, and moving. Move in that way.

 

Getting to Study

  1. Imagine something you are really motivated to do and create the feeling and spin it inside you to intensify it.
  2. Imagine yourself studying and doing really well in the exams.
  3. Spin the feeling of motivation faster and faster as you think about studying and doing exams.
  4. Think about not having enough time to study and spin the urgency.
  5. Think about studying again and doing well in the exams as you spin the urgency and feeling of motivation faster and faster.

 

Motivate Yourself with Words

  1. Think of something you find yourself easily motivated to do.
  2. Notice the tone and rhythm of your inner voice that you use when you talk to yourself about these activities.
  3. Become aware of the different words that work best to motivate you out of the following choices:

    • I WISH
    • I WANT
    • I NEED
    • I HAVE TO
    • I’VE GOT TO
    • I MUST
    • I SHOULD
    • I CAN
    • I AM DOING
  4. You will notice that some of these words work better for you than others and motivate you more than the others. Use the words and the tone and rhythm of the words and voice that motivates you. (Check out my other NLP post for more about auditory and other submodalities)

 

How to Make More Money Exercise

  1. Build a belief in yourself being wealthy.
  2. You can do this by going back to the inventory where you found the sub modalities of a strong belief. Take the thought of you becoming successfully wealthy in the near future and move it off and back up into the sub modalities of the strong belief Do this a number of times.
  3. Focus on making your money based upon what you know rather than something you don’t know much about.
  4. Learn everything you need to know about whatever business or opportunity you are looking at. Research in depth so you are absolutely clear on everything.
  5. Find a mentor who has already succeeded in the business you are in and ask them all the questions you have about how to make it work.
  6. Always ask how you can be more valuable to the world and prepare to work more effectively than ever before.

 

These 4 NLP exercises are found in Bandler’s book, and be sure to check it out to find out more about NLP and more ways to achieve peak performance in your life and work.

Do you have any other NLP exercises that you know or use in your life and work? Share with us your ideas below.

 

This article was inspired by
Get the Life You Want (Richard Bandler)

Check it out at Amazon

Related posts:

  1. Neuro linguistic programming (NLP) exercises by Richard Bandler to help you achieve peak performance in life
  2. The ultimate success formula

Categories: AidBlogs

Neuro linguistic programming (NLP) exercises by Richard Bandler to help you achieve peak performance in life

iDevelopWorld - December 20, 2009 - 5:48am

 

Technology in our modern world has developed so much in the last 100 years. You can see this in the technological advancements in computers and communication and transport.

Just as there have been great leaps in progress in technology in these areas, we have also seen advancements in the technology of your mind and body.

Neuro-linguistic programming (or NLP for short) came about when Richard Bandler and John Grinder went on a mission to find out what works when using our minds to achieve what we want. They noticed that much of previous reserach on psychology focused too much on the problems and explaining how the mind works or how mental challenges (like fear or anxiety or limitations) come about. However, the discipline of psychology often lacked clear steps for people to take control of their own minds. It lacked a coherent way for people to use their brains in a systematic way that could work for them to get the life they deserved.

Bandler and Grinder then did research on psychologists and clinical psychiatrists who were actually achieving results with their patients. They particularly followed much of the work of the American psychiatrist Milton Erickson. Overall, they discovered that there are certain ways that you can use your mind and language in order to program yourself and your habits to achieve anything you want.

NLP’s purpose is really to “find ways to help people have better, fuller and richer lives.” Originally, NLP was catered to address psychological problems like phobias, depression, habit disorder, psychosomatic illnesses, learning disorders. However, in more recent times, NLP has been promoted as a “science of excellence”. It has led to a greater impact in management training, life coaching and even for peak performance in sports.

 

NLP exercises to help you get the life you want

NLP does sound like it has great potential. But do it’s techniques really work?

A number of psychology academics have criticised NLP for a lack of theoretical evidence. However, NLP practitioners argue that NLP focuses less on scientific theory, and more on real-world application.

Of course, when it comes to theories and academics, there are always debates. (Think even about nutrition and food and diet debates). I agree that it can get really annoying.

Therefore, the best way to find out if NLP works, is to test them yourself. (Just like any sort of diet). What works best is what works for you.

Since Bandler is one of the founders of NLP, I therefore decided to get a hold of his book, “Getting the Life You Want.” The exercises below are excerpted from his book. They are the ones that stood out for me and felt would be great to share with you.

Even if NLP doesn’t work out for you, the best thing about thinking about NLP is the process of self-analysis. You being to question your actions. You being to see the patterns in your behaviour. Through this self-reflection, and looking at yourself from outside yourself, you then have the power to change yourself.

 

What are your submodalities?

In NLP, it is suggested that whenever you feel a certain way, you are actually representing the situation in a certain way. You represent whatever happens to you using various submodalities.

One major way of taking control of your emotional state so that you get yourself in a peak state, is to understand your submodalities. When you examine yourself and how you represent and perceive the past or present or future, you will recognise that there are specific things you do in your brain.

If you notice the patterns in how you think and represent, you can then take control of yourself. For example, you can then notice what goes on in your head when you feel fear. You can also notice what goes on when you feel confident and unstoppable. When you notice these patterns, you are then in a position to be able to use your brain and your thoughts in a way that you choose.

Here is a list of submodalities that Bandler outlines:

      Visual Submodalities:

      • Number of images
      • Moving/Still
      • Size
      • Shape
      • Color/Black and white
      • Focused/Unfocused
      • Bright/Dim
      • Location in space
      • Bordered/Borderless
      • Flat/3D
      • Associated/Disassociated
      • Close/Distant

      Auditory Submodalities:

      • Volume
      • Pitch
      • Timbre (mood of sound)
      • Tempo
      • Tonality
      • Duration
      • Rhythm
      • Direction of voice
      • Harmony

      Kinesthetic Submodalities:

      • Location in body
      • Tactile sensations
      • Temperature
      • Pulse rate
      • Breathing rate
      • Pressure
      • Weight
      • Intensity
      • Movement/Direction

      Olfactory/Gustatory Submodalities:

      • Sweet
      • Sour
      • Bitter
      • Aroma
      • Fragrance
      • Pungency (strength of smell)

It will help you to know which submodalities are working in your mind and body when you represent your feelings and experience. Submodalities are fundamental in NLP, and they are featured in many NLP exercises, to get you into peak performance for your life and work. Check out the following exercises below that Bandler features in his own book.

 

How to Feel Wonderful Exercise

  1. Think of a time you felt wonderful.
  2. Close your eyes and imagine that time in vivid detail. See the image clearly, hear the sounds loudly, remember the feelings as they were then.
  3. Imagine yourself stepping into that experience and imagine being in that memory as if it’s happening now. See what you’d see, hear what you’d hear, feel how good you’d feel. Make the colors stronger and brighter if that helps. Notice how you were breathing back then, and breathe that way now.
  4. Pay attention to the wonderful feeling in your body and get a sense of where the feeling starts, where it goes, and the direction it moves in. Imagine taking control over the feeling and spinning it faster and
    faster and stronger and stronger through your body as the feelings increase.
  5. Think of a time in the future where you could use these good feelings. Spin these feelings throughout your body as you think about the future and the things you are doing over the next few weeks. Don’t be too surprised if you find yourself feeling really good for absolutely no reason.

 

Changing Bad Feelings Exercise

  1. Think about somebody who annoys you, intimidates you, or irritates you. Make an image of him/her and see him look at you in whatever way he looks at you when he is annoying you. Hear him say whatever it is he says and notice the bad feeling that happens in your body.
  2. Take this image and make it black and white. Move it far off into the distance. Make it much smaller, oneeighth its size. Place a clown’s nose on his face.
  3. Hear him say whatever it is he says, but hear him say it in Mickey Mouse’s, Donald Duck’s, or Sylvester the Cat’s voice.
  4. Notice how you feel differently. Then distract yourelf for a few moments and think of him again. You will still be feeling differently about him.

 

This article was inspired by
Get the Life You Want (Richard Bandler)

Check it out at Amazon

Related posts:

  1. You are a human “BE”ing. Not a human “DO”ing.
  2. The ultimate success formula
  3. 4 main excuses people use to stop them from thinking BIG

Categories: AidBlogs

أهلا Saying hello and other greetings in Arabic

iDevelopWorld - December 15, 2009 - 6:29am

 

One of the most important conversational skills initially in any language is to know how to greet people. Arabic greetings can be elaborate and prolonged, but some all-purpose expressions will get you by:

The following notes come from Wightwick’s and Gaaafar’s “Mastering Arabic“, which I am using now.

Remember: These greetings are mainly in modern standard arabic. Different arabic-speaking countries may have specific greetings according to their colloquial dialect.

 

Greetings

  • أهلا (ahlan) Hello
  • أهلا بك (ahlan bik/biki) Hello to you (talking to a male/female)
  • صباح الخير (sabah al-kkayr) Good morning
  • صباح النور (sabah an-nur) Good morning (reply)
  • مساء الخير (masa’ al-khayr) Good evening/afternoon
  • مساء النور (masa’ an-nur) Good evening/afternoon (reply)
  • مع السالمة (maaعs-salama) Goodbye

 

Tip: The reply to a greeting often varies from the original, although it is also acceptable to use the original phrase in reply.

 

This article was inspired by
Mastering Arabic (Wightwick and Gaafar)

Check it out at Amazon

Related posts:

  1. أنا ماثيو البارتو “I am Matthew Alberto” – in Arabic!
  2. اللغة العربية الفصحى What is the difference between Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and the Spoken Colloquial Arabic dialects?
  3. طفل Baby steps for Arabic words and sentences

Categories: AidBlogs

اللغة العربية الفصحى What is the difference between Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and the Spoken Colloquial Arabic dialects?

iDevelopWorld - December 13, 2009 - 7:10am

 

It would be useful for you to know that the Arabic content for this website, is specifically targeted for learning Modern Standard Arabic. The articles so far and the in the future, will be mainly geared towards MSA. Only after I’ve got a strong grasp of MSA, will the articles move onto other spoken colloquial dialects (perhaps Egyptian or Levantine).

Nowadays, though, I’ve been going through Wightwick’s and Gaafar’s textbook “Mastering Arabic.” It’s a great, and easy-to-follow text that teachs you how to learn Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).

 

What is the difference between Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and the Spoken Colloquial Arabic dialects?

Note that MSA is the more formal arabic that is understood by all arabic-speaking people. Each arab country speaks their own variant of colloquial arabic. For example, locals in Egypt speak a colloquial Egyptian Arabic, while locals in Iraq speak a different kind of colloquial Iraqi Arabic. This sort of distinction may be difficult to grasp at first. While speaking arabic may differ from place to place, MSA is used for writing, and the written arabic is more universal and commonly understood amongst all Arab countries. MSA is mainly derived from classical arabic, which is found in the Quran. MSA is a kind-of modern version of classical Qur’anic arabic. MSA is also used for formal functions as well as arabic TV and radio news, and the use of MSA for these purposes is consistent throughout the Arab countries.

For a clearer understanding of what Modern Standard Arabic is, click here.

If you are beginning your journey on learning Arabic it is important for you to decide which type you are going to actively study: whether the Modern Standard Arabic or the spoken-colloquial arabic that is specific to each of the arab countries. It took me a while to fully grasp that the Arabic language overall is a phenomenon of diglossia, which means that Arabic speakers generally read and write in Modern Standard Arabic, however, Arabic speakers converse with one another using their local colloquial variant of Arabic (e.g Egyptian or Levantine or Sudanese or Iraqi Arabic). MSA can also be spoken (and it is generally understood by all Arabic speakers, particularly the educated), but MSA is usually more formal occasions or public addresses or for TV news.

 

Why is it useful for you to know the difference between MSA and the colloquial arabic language?

  • It’s useful because when you are learning arabic, you should decide right from the start which kind of arabic you are going for.
  • Knowing the difference is significant because you must find arabic resources that are specific to your variant. I found this out the hard way. For instance, I got myself a copy of the PDQ Arabic FAST course. I assumed that it would be in MSA. Only later did I find out, when I already began learning from the course, that it was specifically for colloquial Egyptian arabic.
  • Knowing the difference between the arabic variants, and understanding that the Arabic language is a diglossia, can save you time and money in the end!
  • You want to know which form of arabic is appropriate for your situation and context: Formal and situations and reading and writing call for MSA; Speaking to local Jordanian people means that you are better off speaking Jordanian Arabic or Levantine Arabic (not MSA).

If you are wanting to travel to a specific Arabic-speaking country, and you want to speak to the locals, you are better off learning the spoken colloquial arabic dialect of that country. That is, learn Egyptian if you are only going to stay in Egypt. Learn Iraqi arabic if you are intending to only stay in Iraq. Learn Lebanese if you are planning to go only to Lebanon.

However, if you would like to have more flexibility and you want to learn the more universal written and formal spoken Arabic, then go for Modern Standard Arabic. It will be a great starting point to help you read and write in Arabic, understand TV news and newspapers and books, and it can make it easier for you to learn any of the colloquial arabic dialects in the future.

As an absolute beginner, I decided to start of with MSA because I had understood that MSA is used throughout the Arab world. There are also plenty of newspaper and written and TV news resources that I can get to help me learn MSA. Furthermore, I knew that MSA would be a great foundation point for me, to help me easily learn any other colloquial dialects of arabic, if ever I find myself in Sudan or Egypt or Lebanon.

Share your own experiences and ideas. Do you have any other tips or suggestions regarding the difference between MSA and colloquial arabic?

 

This article was inspired by
Mastering Arabic (Wightwick and Gaafar)

Check it out at Amazon

Related posts:

  1. أهلا Saying hello and other greetings in Arabic
  2. طفل Baby steps for Arabic words and sentences
  3. Persistence – Learning French, Arabic & Tagalog: June, 2009

Categories: AidBlogs

أبجدية عربية‎ How to write the Arabic alphabet with 28 basic letters

iDevelopWorld - December 11, 2009 - 7:33am

Arabic alphabet, with 28 basic letters

Contextual forms Name Translit. Isolated End Middle Beginning ا‎ ـﺎ‎ ـﺎ‎ ا‎ ʾalif ʾ / ā ﺏ‎ ـب‎ ـبـ‎ بـ‎ bāʾ b ﺕ‎ ـت‎ ـتـ‎ تـ‎ tāʾ t ﺙ‎ ـث‎ ـثـ‎ ثـ‎ ṯāʾ ﺝ‎ ـج‎ ـجـ‎ جـ‎ ǧīm ǧ (also j, g) ﺡ‎ ـح‎ ـحـ‎ حـ‎ ḥāʾ ﺥ‎ ـخ‎ ـخـ‎ خـ‎ ḫāʾ (also kh, x) ﺩ‎ ـد‎ ـد‎ د‎ dāl d ﺫ‎ ـذ‎ ـذ‎ ذ‎ ḏāl (also dh, ð) ﺭ‎ ـر‎ ـر‎ ر‎ rāʾ r ﺯ‎ ـز‎ ـز‎ ز‎ zāy z ﺱ‎ ـس‎ ـسـ‎ سـ‎ sīn s ﺵ‎ ـش‎ ـشـ‎ شـ‎ šīn š (also sh) ﺹ‎ ـص‎ ـصـ‎ صـ‎ ṣād ﺽ‎ ـض‎ ـضـ‎ ضـ‎ ḍād ﻁ‎ ـط‎ ـطـ‎ طـ‎ ṭāʾ ﻅ‎ ـظ‎ ـظـ‎ ظـ‎ ẓāʾ ﻉ‎ ـع‎ ـعـ‎ عـ‎ ʿayn ʿ ﻍ‎ ـغ‎ ـغـ‎ غـ‎ ġayn ġ (also gh) ف‎ ـف‎ ـفـ‎ فـ‎ fāʾ f ﻕ‎ ـق‎ ـقـ‎ قـ‎ qāf q ﻙ‎ ـك‎ ـكـ‎ كـ‎ kāf k ﻝ‎ ـل‎ ـلـ‎ لـ‎ lām l ﻡ‎ ـم‎ ـمـ‎ مـ‎ mīm m ن‎ ـن‎ ـنـ‎ نـ‎ nūn n ﻩ‎ ـه‎ ـهـ‎ هـ‎ hāʾ h ﻭ‎ ـو‎ ـو‎ و‎ wāw w / ū / aw ﻱ‎ ـي‎ ـيـ‎ يـ‎ yāʾ y / ī / ay

Modified letters

The following are not individual letters, but rather different contextual variants of some of the Arabic letters.

Conditional forms Name Translit. Isolated Final Medial Initial ﺁ‎ ـآ‎ ـآ‎ آ‎ ʾalif madda ʾā ﺓ‎ ـة‎ ‎ ‎ tāʾ marbūṭa‎ h or
t / h / ﻯ‎ ـى‎ ‎ ‎ ʾalif maqṣūra ā /

Ligatures

The only compulsory ligature is lām + ʼalif. All other ligatures (yāʼ + mīm, etc.) are optional.

  • (isolated) lām + ʼalif (lā /laː/):
    1. ﻻ‎
  • (final or medial) lām + ʼalif (lā /laː/):
    1. ـﻼ‎
Adapted from Wikipedia, under CC-BY-SA License

 

This article was inspired by
Alif Baa: Introduction to Arabic Letters and Sounds (Brustad et al)

Check it out at Amazon

Related posts:

  1. اللغة العربية الفصحى What is the difference between Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and the Spoken Colloquial Arabic dialects?
  2. Persistence – Learning French, Arabic & Tagalog: June, 2009
  3. أهلا Saying hello and other greetings in Arabic

Categories: AidBlogs

How you can be a modern hero in your own life?

iDevelopWorld - December 7, 2009 - 2:46am

 

The modern hero, the modern individual who dares to heed the call and seek the mansion of that presence with whom it is our whole destiny to be atoned, cannot, indeed must not, wait for his community to cast off its slough of pride, fear, rationalized avarice, and sanctified misunderstanding. It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal not in the bright moments of his tribe’s great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair.

- Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

 

The idea of the “Hero” attracts us

The magic of Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, is that he believes in the power of stories.
Not only for our imagination, but for inspiration in our own lives.
He has a great sense of awe and wonder about myths and stories. That they convey more than just words. They convey meaning. Deep meanings and representations to be shared between and for humanity.

George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars movie series, had said that he was inspired by Campbell’s understanding of the power of the hero image and character. You can witness the impact it had on Lucas when you view and enjoy his Star Wars films, and see the trials and triumphs of the hero, Luke Skywalker. From these films, you can also see the impact that the “hero” representation has had on millions of viewers and fans worldwide.

Although the Star Wars films may not be for everyone (I like them though!), the idea and attraction of the “hero” story is universal.

Why are we so drawn to heroes?

I think that the reason we are drawn to heroes in stories is because we feel that our own lives are stories. And they are. Our lives are enmeshed with tales and challenges and problems to overcome.

Heroes in stories often give us the inspiration, the visions and the possibilities in overcoming the most difficult circumstances.

I like how Campbell linked our human lives to the lives of hero characters. He had said:

We have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.

Basically he imagines that our lives are adventures, too. That we often turn to heroes in storybooks or in films or in comics or cartoons because they give us a model. A model of behaving and overcoming.

How you can be a modern hero in your own life?

It’s true that you may not face dragons in your life adventure. You may not have to fight goblins or monsters.

But is that necessarily true? Campbell points to the fact that stories often use metaphors, because your subconscious mind and your soul speaks in the language of metaphors.

Sure you may not face a physical dragon. But what about the “dragon” of fear, or the “goblin” of a person whom you have to deal with in your life. What about the “monsters” of pain and suffering that life throws at you?

When we think of these hero metaphors, we begin to feel that heroes and stories are not so imaginary after all. Heroes really can help us in the way we respond and act to real-life situations.

I’ve heard the comparisons being drawn between storybook heroes to everyday heroes. And it sure is intereting.

Heroes in the real world can be your fire-fighter going in to save a child in a burning home. It can be a single mother, working hard to make ends meet for her children. It can be a person with an illness, who looks past their physical problems, and still thinks positively about life and their circumstances. It could even be a quality father who acts as a role model for his kids, inspiring them to be all that they can be.

If you want to be a modern hero in your own life, look at heroes you look up to. Notice the positive characteristics that you can actually apply in your life. You can probably notice that in many heroes, they have these sorts of qualities:

    • Courage
    • Persistence
    • Strength – physical or moral or mental or emotional or social
    • Special Talents – what are your unique talents?
    • Determination
    • Desire to Help and Contribute to Others

You’ll notice that as a human being, you can actually take on these “heroic” qualities. What if you were to apply them in your own life, and use these qualities to solve your problems? What if you developed them within yourself?

The Pattern of Adventure for a Hero

Campbell curiously describes the general pattern of adventure that heroes embark. Reading Campbell’s book, you notice that he has read several hundreds or even thousands of hero stories and myths. It’s very impressive.

So when he outlines the general pattern, there is some merit and value in it. You can also see how it influenced Lucas’ adventure plot for Luke Skywalker in Star Wars.

The mythological hero, setting forth from his common-day hut or castle, is lured, carried away, or else voluntarily proceeds, to the threshold of adventure. There he encounters a shadow presence that guards the passage. The hero may defeat or conciliate this power and go alive into the kingdom of the dark (brother-battle, dragon-battle; offering, charm), or be slain by the opponent and descend in death (dismemberment, crucifixion). Beyond the threshold, then, the hero journeys through a world of unfamiliar yet strangely intimate forces, some of which severely threaten him (tests), some of which give magical aid (helpers). When he arrives at the nadir of the mythological round, he undergoes a supreme ordeal and gains his reward. The triumph may be represented as the hero’s sexual union with the goddess-mother of the world (sacred marriage), his recognition by the father-creator (father atonement), his own divinization (apothesis), or again his theft of the boon he came to gain (bride-theft); intrinsically it is an expansion of consciousness and therewith of being (illumination, transfiguration, freedom). The final work is that of the return. If the powers have blessed the hero, he now sets forth under their protection (emissary); if not, he flees and is pursued (transformation flight, obstacle flight). At the return threshold the transcendental powers must remain behind; the hero re-emerges from the kingdom of the dream (return, resurrection). The boon that he brings restores the world (elixir).

 

You’ll find that Campbell’s hero pattern is described as male. This is probably because Campbell mainly drew on mythological heroes, who tended to be male. Nowadays, we find several female heroes in films and books, and several of the common themes of adventure still remain.

Think of heroes you look up to. Have any of their actions or attitudes, such as self-confidence, helped you? Comment on some of your own personal hero inspirations below!

 

This article was inspired by
‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ (Joseph Campbell)

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Related posts:

  1. I find that, above all, the soul wants stories.

Categories: AidBlogs

«C’est» et «Il est» en français – Partie 2 / french

iDevelopWorld - December 6, 2009 - 3:01am

La Profession

  1. On ne met pas d’article devant les noms de profession en français:
      • Je suis secrétaire.
        Vous êtes ingénieur.

    • L’absence d’article concerne la nationalité, la religion, la profession, etc.. qui sont traitées comme des adjectifs.
      • Keith est médecin.
        Il est anglais. Il est protestant. Il est marié..

  2. On met l’article pour apporter une précision:
      • -Paul est un professeur exceptionnel..
      • -Marie est une bonne secrétaire.

    • On ne met pas d’article quand la précision indique une catégorie professionnalle:
      • -Je suis secrétaire bilingue. Je suis une bonne secrétaire.
      • («Secrétaire bilingue» est une catégorie professionelle mais pas «bonne secrétaire».)

  3. Cas de la 3e personne: on utilise «c’est» d’identification au lieu de «C’est»
    • «C’est» + nom déterminé:
      • -C’est Jacques Dutronc.
      • -C’est mon voisin.
      • -C’est un chanteur.

    • «Il est» + adjectif ou profession:
      • -Il est blond.
      • -Il est sympathique.
      • -Il est chanteur.

    • Dites: C’est un médecin.
    • Ne dites pas: Il est un…
    • Dites: C’est mon médecin.
    • Ne dites pas: Il est mon…

 

This article was inspired by

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Related posts:

  1. «C’est» et «Il est» en français – Partie 1 / french
  2. La Réponse en français / french
  3. Starting – Learning French & Tagalog: Feb, 2009

Categories: AidBlogs

«C’est» et «Il est» en français – Partie 2

iDevelopWorld - December 6, 2009 - 3:01am

La Profession

  1. On ne met pas d’article devant les noms de profession en français:
      • Je suis secrétaire.
        Vous êtes ingénieur.

    • L’absence d’article concerne la nationalité, la religion, la profession, etc.. qui sont traitées comme des adjectifs.
      • Keith est médecin.
        Il est anglais. Il est protestant. Il est marié..

  2. On met l’article pour apporter une précision:
      • -Paul est un professeur exceptionnel..
      • -Marie est une bonne secrétaire.

    • On ne met pas d’article quand la précision indique une catégorie professionnalle:
      • -Je suis secrétaire bilingue. Je suis une bonne secrétaire.
      • («Secrétaire bilingue» est une catégorie professionelle mais pas «bonne secrétaire».)

  3. Cas de la 3e personne: on utilise «c’est» d’identification au lieu de «C’est»
    • «C’est» + nom déterminé:
      • -C’est Jacques Dutronc.
      • -C’est mon voisin.
      • -C’est un chanteur.

    • «Il est» + adjectif ou profession:
      • -Il est blond.
      • -Il est sympathique.
      • -Il est chanteur.

    • Dites: C’est un médecin.
    • Ne dites pas: Il est un…
    • Dites: C’est mon médecin.
    • Ne dites pas: Il est mon…

 

This article was inspired by

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Related posts:

  1. «C’est» et «Il est» en français – Partie 1
  2. La Réponse en français

Categories: AidBlogs

«C’est» et «Il est» en français – Partie 1 / french

iDevelopWorld - December 5, 2009 - 11:31am

L’Indentification et La Présentation

  1. Pour identifier une chose ou une personne, on utilise:
    • «C’est» + nom singulier
      • C’est une mangue.
        C’est un acteur.

    • «Ce sont» + nom pluriel
      • C’est une mangue.
        C’est un acteur.

    • La question est toujours au singulier:
      • - Qu’est-ce que c’est? (pour identifier une ou plusiers choses)

          - C’est un dessin de ma fille.
          - Ce sont des dessins de ma fille.

        - Qui est-ce? (pour identifier une ou plusiers personnes)

          - C’est mon cousin.
          - Ce sont mes cousins.

    • Dites: Qui est-ce?
    • Ne dites pas: Qui est-il?
    • Dites: C’est Matthieu Alberto?
    • Ne dites pas: Il est Matthieu Alberto.

  2. Pour présenter une personne, on utilise «c’est» + nom singulier, «ce sont» + nom pluriel:
      • -C’est Matthieu Alberto.
      • -C’est mon directeur.
      • -Ce sont mes parents.
      • -Ce sont des amis.

    • On utilise «c’est» invariable pour s’annoncer (par exemple à l’interphone):
      • -C’est nous.
      • -C’est Anna et Peter.

 

This article was inspired by

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Related posts:

  1. «C’est» et «Il est» en français – Partie 2 / french
  2. La Réponse en français / french
  3. Pour vaincre la grammaire française intermediare! / french

Categories: AidBlogs

«C’est» et «Il est» en français – Partie 1

iDevelopWorld - December 5, 2009 - 11:31am

L’Indentification et La Présentation

  1. Pour identifier une chose ou une personne, on utilise:
    • «C’est» + nom singulier
      • C’est une mangue.
        C’est un acteur.

    • «Ce sont» + nom pluriel
      • C’est une mangue.
        C’est un acteur.

    • La question est toujours au singulier:
      • - Qu’est-ce que c’est? (pour identifier une ou plusiers choses)

          - C’est un dessin de ma fille.
          - Ce sont des dessins de ma fille.

        - Qui est-ce? (pour identifier une ou plusiers personnes)

          - C’est mon cousin.
          - Ce sont mes cousins.

    • Dites: Qui est-ce?
    • Ne dites pas: Qui est-il?
    • Dites: C’est Matthieu Alberto?
    • Ne dites pas: Il est Matthieu Alberto.

  2. Pour présenter une personne, on utilise «c’est» + nom singulier, «ce sont» + nom pluriel:
      • -C’est Matthieu Alberto.
      • -C’est mon directeur.
      • -Ce sont mes parents.
      • -Ce sont des amis.

    • On utilise «c’est» invariable pour s’annoncer (par exemple à l’interphone):
      • -C’est nous.
      • -C’est Anna et Peter.

 

This article was inspired by

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Related posts:

  1. «C’est» et «Il est» en français – Partie 2
  2. La Réponse en français

Categories: AidBlogs

La Réponse en français / french

iDevelopWorld - December 5, 2009 - 10:38am

 

    «Oui» répond à une question affirmative:
    Vous êtes marié? Oui, je suis marié.

 

    «Si» répond à une question négative:
    Vous n’êtes pas marié? Si, je suis marié.

 

    «Non» répond négativement à une question phrase:
    Tu travailles le samedi? Non.

 

    «Pas» répond à une partie de la phrase:
    Tu travailles le samedi? Pas tous les samedis.

 

Quelques exemples

    1. -Vous êtes en vacances, Monsieur Matthieu?
    -Oui, et vous, est-ce que vous êtes en vacances?

 

    2. -Vous êtes içi avec votre femme?
    -Pas avec ma femme, avec ma fille.

 

    3. -Vous êtes à Paris en juillet?
    -Non nous sommes à Rome.

 

    4. -Vous êtes içi pour faire du tourisme?
    -Pas pour faire du tourisme: pour travailler!

 

    5. -Vous n’êtes pas fatigués?
    -Si nous sommes très fatigués.

 

This article was inspired by

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Related posts:

  1. «C’est» et «Il est» en français – Partie 2 / french
  2. «C’est» et «Il est» en français – Partie 1 / french
  3. Pour vaincre la grammaire française intermediare! / french

Categories: AidBlogs

La Réponse en français

iDevelopWorld - December 5, 2009 - 10:38am

 

    «Oui» répond à une question affirmative:
    Vous êtes marié? Oui, je suis marié.

 

    «Si» répond à une question négative:
    Vous n’êtes pas marié? Si, je suis marié.

 

    «Non» répond négativement à une question phrase:
    Tu travailles le samedi? Non.

 

    «Pas» répond à une partie de la phrase:
    Tu travailles le samedi? Pas tous les samedis.

 

Quelques exemples

    1. -Vous êtes en vacances, Monsieur Matthieu?
    -Oui, et vous, est-ce que vous êtes en vacances?

 

    2. -Vous êtes içi avec votre femme?
    -Pas avec ma femme, avec ma fille.

 

    3. -Vous êtes à Paris en juillet?
    -Non nous sommes à Rome.

 

    4. -Vous êtes içi pour faire du tourisme?
    -Pas pour faire du tourisme: pour travailler!

 

    5. -Vous n’êtes pas fatigués?
    -Si nous sommes très fatigués.

 

This article was inspired by

Check it out at Amazon

Related posts:

  1. «C’est» et «Il est» en français – Partie 2
  2. «C’est» et «Il est» en français – Partie 1
  3. Pour vaincre la grammaire française intermediare!

Categories: AidBlogs

How to use Kiva to turn your $50 into $500 so that you infinitely give more and more to empower the poor in our world

iDevelopWorld - November 30, 2009 - 4:12am

The concept of giving to the poor, or alms giving, is an idea that is as old as the creation of money.

Giving to the poor has traditionally meant giving to charities or non-governmental organisations (NGOs). You give money to these charities and NGOs, in the hopes that they will either pass on that money to targeted beneficiaries, or buy in-kind products (such as food or shelter) to give to the poor, or even to implement social programs (such as participatory initiatives or vocational training or education).

This sort of giving has been the conventional form of giving for centuries.

However, as times have changed, technologies and ideas have grown. We now live in the 21st century. As a result, the concept of giving must adapt to the ever-growing and ever-changing dynamic of our world. Giving to the poor must keep up.

At times, the problem with giving money, or throwing money at poor people, is that it can often breed a habit of dependency on aid. Having worked with NGOs and beneficiaries of long-term aid, I have seen first-hand the problems of having people depend solely on handouts by governments, NGOs or international organisations. It kills initiative in people and self-reliance. I understand that there are instances where humanitarian assistance is necessary, but prolonged aid can be more problematic. And giving aid without thinking about the consequences of the self-reliance of the people, in my view, is a major problem.

Fortunately, thinkers and development economists and people in the field have come up with new forms of giving. Herein lies the new form of philanthropy that I am personally excited about: micro-loans (also known as microcredit or microfinance).

What are micro-loans?

Currently, I live and work in Bangladesh for humanitarian and development programs. Funny enough, the idea of micro-loans originated from Bangladesh, by the renowned Bangladeshi economist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Muhammad Yunus.

He noticed that the poorest people in Bangladesh were more than capable to lift themselves out of poverty. That they had the skills and the drive to lift themselves out. They have the initiative to do it, because they are the ones who directly benefit when they take initiative for themselves.

Yunus noticed that women, in particular, had a great capacity to save for their families and even had the willingness to use their savings to buy income-generating assets (IGAs).

The major thing preventing these extremely poor women from saving and then investing in IGAs is the lack of capital, a lack of finance to start up small businesses. Yunus discovered this as he observed and interviewed poor households in Chittagong, Bangladesh.

Yunus then realised that many of the larger banks would refuse giving loans to potential entrepreneurs from poorer backgrounds because the loans requested by micro-entrepreneurs were too small, and plus the poor often lack sufficient lack of collateral.

When the big banks refused to given loans to the poor, Yunus stepped in and believed that it was possible. From there, the idea of micro-loans emerged. Yunus did some experiments with micro-loans, financing small entrepreneurs from poor backgrounds. For his first trials, he actually used his own pocket money to loan to some women. These women would then go out and buy simple IGAs such as chickens or cows or small goods to sell and make profit. Interestingly, Yunus discovered that when micro-loans were given to women, the repayment rate of the loans was over 90%. Perhaps it was the family-orientated characteristic of the poor women, which encouraged them to consistently save and repay.

Yunus then established the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, in order to institutionalise microfinance. Now, his model of micro-loans spread across other developing countries. His pioneering of micro-loans and his exemplary work on social entrepreneurship, has given him and the Grameen Bank the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. They were awarded it “for advancing economic and social opportunities for the poor, especially women, through their pioneering microcredit work.”

Yunus has often been called the Banker of the Poor.

How you can be a Banker to the Poor? Answer = Kiva

For me personally, I had learnt about the concept of microloans back in university during some of my economics and development classes. Listening to the lecturers talk about the innovation of microfinance was interesting, but I often felt like the application of microfinance was left to NGOs or other microfinance institutions in the developing world.

One day however, as I was reading my friend Peter’s blog (one of my humanitarian friends), I stumbled across his project to raise money with kiva. And I was instantly amazed by the impact that his project was making all across the world, and for many different people directly.

I visited the kiva website, and I was intrigued even more!

Kiva’s motto is “Loans that change lives”, and when I saw that I could start with just $25, I gave it straight away. It was very fitting that I loaned to a Filipino woman (as my parents are originally from the Philippines) and I remembered that my parents had decided for our family to move to Australia to escape from poverty.

Already, I observed that I was already a part of the innovative process of micro-loans. I was a lender, a banker to the poor. To give a woman from the developing world the help she needed (via capital) so that she could buy income-generating assets, and therefore, help herself.

For me, that excited me immensely. This concept of giving was revolutionary, and I was a part of it. It’s revolutionary because it gives the entrepreneurs the gift of self-respect. Typically, when you give money to charities, it sometimes feels as if you throw money at the poor, and often there is a massive imbalance of power because you have given and they have taken without giving anything in return for it. (Of course there are many humanitarian or crisis examples where donations must be given to prevent a disaster)

However, for long-term development, I believe that there needs to be a balance in the relationship between the donor and the beneficiary. Through micro-loans, there is a greater balance because the micro-entrepreneur uses the loan to buy assets that can provide goods and services for their community, and then the entrepreneur can make a profit. From that, they are then able to repay the loan and give back. It becomes similar to the notion of “paying it forward”, and a balanced relationship of giving and receiving.

How to use kiva to turn your $50 into $500 so that you infinitely give more and more to empower the poor in our world

The repayment terms vary from 6 months to 1 year or longer.

You can start off with just $25, and loan it off. You’ll then receive that $25 again once the entrepreneur has paid you back (after let’s say, 6 months). Then you can re-loan that $25. Then you’ll get re-paid that $25. And you can do it again and again and again.

In practice, the effect of just $25 can be enormous over the long run. And you will definitely see the effect of your $25, because there is accountability, as the entrepreneur is expected to pay it back from the profits that they make.

For instance:
You give a micro-loan of $25 to a woman in Africa. She uses that $25 to buy a chicken. The chicken lays eggs and then she can sell those eggs to people in her community (providing a service to them). She makes a profit, and then repays the loan of $25 (giving you back your $25). The chicken then lays more eggs, and even has baby chickens, and the woman now has a greater scope of increased profit and income-generation for her future.

You then have your $25 again because the first woman repaid her loan. Now you can give your $25 to another woman, maybe perhaps in South America or Asia? It’s your choice. But then again, the process will reoccur.

Then you decide to give a micro-loan of $25 to a woman in Peru. She uses that $25 to buy a cow. The cow produces milk and then she can sell that milk to people in her community (providing a service to them). She makes a profit, and then repays the loan of $25 (giving you back your $25). The cow then has more milk, and even has baby calves, and the woman now has a greater scope of increased profit and income-generation for her future.

Effectively, you’ve only given $25 once. BUT you have actually given 2 loans worth $25 each. So you’ve made an impact of $50 with just $25. Interesting, isn’t it?

The process goes on and on as you receive your repayments back, and then you reloan the money. That is how you can turn your $25 into $250 or more of impact around the world. It is also how you can turn your $50 into $500 of impact and contribution for the lives of the poor.

In a nutshell: If you give an initial $50 loan with 6 months repayment terms and you re-loan that $50 to another entrepreneur after every 6 months over 5 years, then your $50 will have made an impact of $500.

Check out the kiva entrepreneurs who I have supported

Kiva has made it easy and interactive for you to give micro-loans to small entrepreneurs from around the world. These people already have the initiative and the ideas to lift themselves out of poverty. Kiva is a great way to give to them to give them a boost up on the ladder of development.

Check out their website here: kiva.org

Or even check out my profile to get an idea of how it works: http://www.kiva.org/lender/idevelopworld

Below you can also see the entrepreneurs who I am supporting or have supported.

Categories: AidBlogs

I find that, above all, the soul wants stories.

iDevelopWorld - November 29, 2009 - 3:31am

“I find that, above all, the soul wants stories.”
Why stories?
Because the soul’s way of communicating is to teach. And its language is symbols and themes – all of which have been found, since the beginning of time, in stories. No matter how much “much” a person might otherwise possess, they were seen as poor, or even imperiled, if they did not know stories they could turn to for advice, throughout and till the very end of life.

- Clarissa Pinkola Estes

You live your life and meet people. You have conversations with people from all over, sometimes meeting them at chance happenings. You listen and learn, hearing their stories and meanings that are drawn from their life and experience.

The power of stories are so captivating for us as humans.

As I read Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’, I really do feel a sense of change in my thinking and perspective of the world. You know, I used to live with the idea that we have to always be practical with things. Be practical with what you do, practical with what you read, practical about how you see the world.

Campbell’s book at the moment is really influencing me to see the world anew. Our world in which metaphors and soul stories and characters and lives play out in meaningful and symbolic ways – which are often expressed in tales that are not so practical or reasonable. Because the imagination and the soul expresses itself in these images.

The art of story-telling

There’s such an interesting description of story-telling, and the history behind it. That historically, when humans livd and worked in small tribal or village communities, stories had the purpose of binding people together. Stories would allow people to pass the time, ease the work, and teach lessons to children – especially stories shared by word-of-mouth.

While recent times have seen the demise of the oral tradition (as human societies move increasingly away from communal living to more independent living), this does not diminish the importance of stories and the desire for them. “No matter how urbanized a people may become, no matter how far they are living from family, or how many generations away they are born from a tight-knit heritage group – people everywhere nonetheless will form and re-form “talking story” groups.” Stories nowadays have changed in their form of communication. You can find the sharing of stories in newspapers, magazines, books, movies, TV, daily conversations, parks, pubs, benches, and cafes.

I read this idea, and could really validate it in my own experience. While facts and reason are important, there is another layer of the imaginative and the impossible which has the emotional power to affect us. And looking for this power in stories is so basic. It is a way that our human socialness is conveyed.

“For everyone, from war veterans to families, from co-workers to classmates, from survivors to activists, religious and artists, and more, the stories they share together bind them more faithfully, through the heart and soul, to each other and to the spirit, than almost any other bond.”

Stories are so essential to the character of humanity. It is said bluntly that the “lack of compelling and unpredictable heroic stories can deaden an individual’s and a culture’s overall creative life – can pulverize it right down to powder.”

Heroes in your own life

The drive and yearning to live out stories is as deep in the mind as it is compelling for the mind to listen to stories and learn from them.

I liked reading about the idea that in our day-to-day lives, ordinary people try to find heroic themes in their own life. You see this in the way that people (or even you) can seek challenges and quests, which are manifested in your goals, creative endeavours and dreams. It is suggested that all of these signs of heroic seeking in real-life, lead to one psychological fact: “That is, that the creative and spiritual lives of individuals influence the outer world as much as the mythic world influences the individual.”

I just came back from a weekend trip to a small island off Bangladesh. And while the environment and the natural beauty were magnificent, the unique thing about that trip was the sharing in the stories amongst friends. Unique stories and meanings gained from a lifetime of experiences, all with their individual quirks and contexts. Many of those stories, actually impacting me in many ways. Especially the stories which I could relate to, learn from, and feel. What I liked most, was that these stories were real. From real people, each with extraordinary lives.

Think about the people who have impacted your life, who you look up to or admire. Isn’t there a heroic quality about them in your own view and feeling?

Stories have the power to move us

The wonder of stories is in its power to move us, shake us into action, or empower us with a new perspective on life and ourselves.

One example given includes those heroic stories in which a new challenge is set, and the main character has to make the decision. Should the character take on the challenge? Say yes or no? Overcome it? Become more? Run away?

In those moments, whether within stories or even in our own lives, the moment takes us on a heroic decision.

These pivotal turning points can even be simplified to:

“If not now, when?”

‘This simple and powerful encouragement to go on with the journey has been expressed in different words, at different times, to the yearning but timid, to the uncertain, the jaded, the hesitant, the dawdlers, the postponers, the fakers, the foolish, and the wise. Thus, since the beginning of time, humanity has lurched, walked, crawled, dragged, and danced itself forward towards the fullest life with soul possible.’

Stories are powerful because they give us an example of possibility. The causes and consequences of choices made. But more importantly, the type of person that you can become by making a certain decision over another. And the journey that accompanies those decisions as the character moves forward.

Sharing stories with a child

As the importance of stories began to strike me. It became obvious that the many stories that I grew up with, really have shaped me.

In Campbell’s book, there is a hypothetical that is put forward. Imagine a child who has neve been given any stories as they are growing up. They never meet any heroic characters and the drive and passion that pushes them to overcome the odds. Their imaginations are never awakened with the tales and fables of people who had to learn life lessons from complications that they come across.

And when I think of a child who has had no stories told to them, it makes me feel empty. It feels cold and barren for a child never to have known them. For they never have the role models from whence to draw their strength when they face challenges in the real world. And it is in the images in stories which are imprinted in our subconscious minds, much much longer than mere instructions.

Stories that have meanings in them are much more effective than instructive commands about life. For the stories have greater depth and sybolism that stays with us, with our soul and our imagination.

Realising this, reminded me of the times my mother would read me story books before going to bed. I remembered the people and the wonderful places in these stories, and I became so grateful. And recognizing the impact that many of these stories have had on me, it gives me such energy to want to share stories with others, especially to children.

‘Remembering’ stories, not discovering stories

The funny thing about all stories is that they all seem to share sommon elements about them. Even though the characters, the situations and the contexts may change, there truly is a thread that joins them.

I once heard that there are not millions of stories, but since the beginning of time, there have only really been a handful of stories. The rest have just been interpretations and adaptations of the original stories. And it does seem like that, doesn’t it? The themes and the underlying meanings tend to remain constant, even though the names of the people and places change.

“Since forever, the best amongst contemporary thinkers neither “discover” nor “found” anything. They remember. They remember that they are remembering. They tell what has been since the beginning of time.”

From Campbell, I really do feel affirmed in the importance of stories for us as humans. How do you feel about stories? Are there any stories, whether mythical or realistic, which have changed your life or your view of the world?

This article was inspired by
‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ (Joseph Campbell)

Check it out at Amazon

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Categories: AidBlogs

Compassion: the common thread that binds all spiritual beliefs together

iDevelopWorld - November 26, 2009 - 10:38am

In our world where we often feel confusion, misunderstanding and even animosity with the fact that the world’s religions and spiritual traditions often differ, today we find some hope. Hope in the sense that, while all spiritual beliefs and religions may differ, they fundamentally have a common thread running through them all.

According to Karen Armstrong, that thread is strong enough for us to go beyond differences in belief. It is strong enough to truly love one another. It is compassion.

Karen Armstrong, and her team of spiritual leaders from around the world, have come up with a Charter to affirm the belief in the importance of interfaith dialogue and understanding, but more importantly, in compassion for each other as human beings in practice.

Personally, I thought that the Charter would be longer and more detailed, something similar to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, I suppose that compassion itself, is simple, and it needs no complicated thesis to explain what it is. You can easily recognise it when it is there.

And I suppose for me personally, this sort of Charter is significant. I’m a Christian myself who grew up in a mainly Christian country (Australia and Philippines), but I am now living in a predominantly Muslim country (Bangladesh) and working on behalf of refugees who were discouraged from practising their Muslim faith.

A great man once said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That was Martin Luther King Jr.

In the area I currently live, there are Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and a small group of Christians, all living together. We really should stop focusing on the differences, and focusing on all these spiritual labels. But appreciate, instead, that in our diverse spiritual beliefs, these beliefs essentially stand for something universal – that we want to give compassion to others, whichever their creed.

In the end, we are all human beings. And we really need to figure out a way to live together in harmony.

The Charter for Compassion was unveiled on November 12, 2009, and it is given below:

A call to bring the world together…

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

Visit the website of the Charter for Compassion for more info, or to affirm you support.

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