Posts Tagged ‘The Beatles’

Can you imagine what the world would look like without war? We all say we want peace but none of us have ever really even experienced it; so how do we know what we’re talking about? There has never been a time in history of true peace, at least since humans showed up. In the animal kingdom there is death but only in circumstances where survival is at stake. It’s natural that at some point a “me or you” situation may arise, but only out of necessity like hunger or immediate bodily harm. The only instances even resembling temporary peace we people have ever experienced have been peace through superior firepower, which is no different than beating a child into submission and declaring them well-behaved. At some point it becomes necessary to take a leap of faith and just imagine it – or try at least.

John Lennon put his own version of peace into words and was killed for it, just like Martin Luther King Jr. Take a second and let that sink in. It’s common knowledge that advocators of real peace are often killed for doing so, but consider just how paradoxical that is, and just how powerful of an effect that knowledge has on our minds. Of course people think war is inevitable, we’ve been at war our whole lives. We don’t know anything else. But just because we’ve never seen another world, that doesn’t mean it can’t exist. And it’s important to understand that the first step toward addressing any issue is to become aware of the words that we use to do so. To say a world without war can’t exist admits defeat before the possibility of debate even starts. In sales school I became hyperaware of “self-talk.” “Self-talk” is what happens when you are alone with yourself. That voice in your head? It’s your mind expressing itself in symbols you can understand. But those symbols aren’t random, and nor are they originate externally. Except in cases of severe mental illness, you choose the words you speak to yourself. So in English, when it comes to speaking to yourself about ability, there are five levels: “I can’t,” “I can,” “I will,” “I am,” and “it is.” I can’t do it. I can do it. I will do it. I am doing it. It is happening. The same applies for every type of speech about any subject. Addressing issues is first and foremost dependent on the words we are using to do so. In the timeless words of Mark Twain, the difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug.

War is orchestrated and executed. Pun intended. George Carlin, the late great comedian known for his vulgarity and ruthlessness had a dream too. His was simple but profound and like much of his material, focused on the words we use; he wanted to switch the acceptability levels of the words “fuck” and “kill.” One represents the most intimate and natural of acts but is widely shunned, while the other represents the essence of destruction and is plastered all over the evening news. Coincidence? I think not. As John Lennon believed, to strip away our socially constructed barriers and “stop inviting walls into wide open spaces” would finally bring the world together as one, but as it stands far too many have far too much invested in the opposite. From defence contractors to privatized prisons to newspapers that pay more for photos of war than of love, our world is made up of people and institutions that profit from establishing enemies and maintaining boundaries, not cooperating and dissolving them. But who knows, maybe one day we’ll stop cutting off each others’ heads over invisible friends, or dumping our trash into the oceans, or using power to make ourselves wealthy, or blowing up mountains instead of investing in renewable resources, or stepping over homeless people while foreclosed homes sit empty, or locking drug addicts up in cages, or shooting people for talking about fucking love.

Maybe the aliens will have to land for us to see each other as comrades, but maybe we can reach this conclusion on our own. I like to think there are enough candle-carriers out there to light up the darkness. And you may say I’m a dreamer, but hey, I’m not the only one.

Onward and upward.

Z

Bon après midi gens du monde!  Good afternoon people of the world!

Well, here it is.  Tonight marks another sunset on one more beautiful week in Bamako.  This week ended up being pretty productive, so as it comes to an end I have to say it went to good use.

First off, my stepmother-dearest, Kari was here visiting this week.  We had a good time checking out a few restaurants around town.  A few Dad and I had been to, but many we hadn’t.  So When Kari got here we showed her the spots we found and liked so far, but we were soon out of new places to go.  We discovered a few spots that were honestly pretty impressive, like Savana, the big American/European spot complete with a thatched roof and zebra-skin chairs.  It was a warm restaurant that looked like it could easily get pretty hot if the band got going.  Apparently there is a Greek place out there somewhere with the highest reviews around.  Even though I could easily go never smelling Ouzo again, I do love me some feta.  I’ll let you know if it lives up to its name.

With Kari’s help we got a few trinkets for the house, like a new lamp for the den and some curtains.  We also unpacked our books onto the bookshelf and fixed two of the air conditioners.  Having all the books out, in the open, in one place makes it way easier to just read a little of each of the books I’m constantly reading, which is nice.  Maybe one day I’ll finish one.  No, just kidding.  I actually finished Twain’s, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is great.  Though now I have a stronger distaste for Tom Sawyer and his unnecessary theatricality.  The car was brought into the shop to have its A/C fixed on Saturday.  The whole ordeal was originally expected to be a few hours, but it ended up taking seven or eight.  The best part is that now that we got it back, the A/C works a little worse in the front, won’t turn off or turn down in the back, and the “Check Engine” light is on. … Three steps forward and two steps back, as they say.  It’s a process.  The A/C repairman also made a visit this week to fix the unit in Dad’s room.  Once again it was my man in the bright blue suit, who determined the cause of the malfunction was simply that the unit had never been cleaned since he himself installed it almost five years ago.  So he did his usual cleaning of the filters and syphoning of the tubes WITH HIS MOUTH, and whatever dead salamanders were clogging up the thing were taken care of real fast.  If anyone deserves to be paid more, it’s that guy.  Little by little this place is starting not to look or feel quite like Alcatraz anymore.  It’s all very exciting.

This week I got some solid writing done.  I put some good hours in on a story I’m working on, and a book of poetry I have been comprising for about five years now.  Next week I think I’ll focus a little more on music and see if I can get some beats and tunes saved for later.  So many projects, so little time!  Who knows, maybe one day one of my many projects will be complete enough to show off.  I could tell you what they were about now, but… I’d have to kill you.  And I like y’all.

Oddly enough, I also happened to be a guest on a TV show this week!  Once a year AfriCable, an international African television station hosts a karaoke competition called King Karaoke.  They pick twenty contestants out of 150 or so original applicants to compete for and be crowned the karaoke king (or queen) of Africa!  A producer from the show hangs out at the same hotel Dad and I have been going to Thursday nights for karaoke, and wanted me on after she heard these glorious pipes.  What can I say.  Technically contestants need two songs to compete, one of which needs to be a traditional Bambara song.  Since I only just moved here and know neither French nor Bambara (yet), they asked if I would sing a song for their premier episode, which recorded on Thursday and aired on Sunday.  I was originally asked to sing No Woman, No Cry, but a group of contestants decided on that as one of theirs so instead I went with my backup, Come Together.  The best part of the whole experience came right after they called me on stage though.  As I was waiting for they system to reboot so my song could start playing, the host asked me to sing something a cappella to kill time.  I agreed and decided on a bit of Three Little Birds to stick with the original Bob Marley theme, which the crowd liked at least enough to join in and start clapping along.  They only televised a short clip from Come Together, but at least those at the recording got a more of a show.  That was a blast, haha.  If I can find a clip online I’ll post it here for you all to enjoy.

On a more serious and useful note, this week I also finalized plans with Dad to volunteer some time at his office teaching his staff English.  The next step is to meet with him and his assistant at the same time so they can begin making sure all the right channels are aware.  Ideally though, pretty soon I should start holding classes at noon on Tuesdays (for beginners) and Thursdays (for intermediate/advanced).  I’m very excited about the possibility.  Hopefully I can help the overall team improve its English, and build a network of references in the meantime.  Time will tell at this point.  Fingers crossed.

I suppose that’s all for now folks.  I’m off to go watch some AfriCable.  If I fall asleep with it on, it’s like learning French through osmosis, right?

Onward and upward,

-Z

So a couple weeks ago I wrote about awareness.  I focused primarily on situational, or external awareness, as it were.  This week I am going to continue a thought on awareness, however this time I am going to turn my focus inward, to internal or personal awareness.  As always I would love to hear your thoughts.  Let’s see where this takes us…

Who are you?  What do you want?  Where are you headed?  Where do you come from?  How about your friends, siblings, parents, or your parents’ parents?  The human mind attributes meaning to patterns.  Those patterns we recognize as significant color the lens each of us uses to see the world around us.  We categorize and label everything we see into one set or another in order to comprehend the innumerable amount of stimuli we come across, and of course as with everything, this begins with ourselves.

I am Zach.  At least, “Zach,” is the particular symbol I choose at the moment to represent the idea I have in my head of myself.  This means I have spent at least some dime differentiating what I perceive and interact with from whatever generates this voice that ponders these weird-ass questions and have reached the conclusion that there is, in fact, a difference.  Exactly where the line is drawn is up for debate, but I have decided that there is a me that is different from you or that and my name is Zach.  Welcome, by the way.

Once I created that folder, I immediately filled it with all sorts of wonderful people, stories, and places that resonated with my frequency in order to figure and formulate my perceptions.  My memories and my perceptions of course now bounce around together constantly, lubricating my imagination and birthing my dreams.

So that’s me on a skeletal level, and it is important to understand yourself in relation to yourself.  However, it is another task entirely to consider yourself in relation to those around you.  After all, it’s the meat that makes the real differences between us.  There are numerous factors we commonly use to categorize ourselves in relation to each other: gender, race, religion, nationality, spoken language, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status to name a few.  If we have any hope of working with each other then it is not only important for us to understand ourselves in our terms, but to do so in relation to the people with whom we interact.  This brings me to Bamako.

I am a Caucasion-American male living in a big, (appropriately) white, walled-in house in Bamako, a city where reproductive rights barely exist and no one picks the trash up off the streets.  I live with my father, who spends cocktail hour at the embassy with ambassadors, WHO executives and the like.  As for my position in relation to the people of this city, it is safe to say that I am quite privileged.  My father alone employs several local men for what seems like nothing to me but is actually closer to twice the average pay for such positions.  Not only do I have a woodgrain toilet seat, but I have a toilet.  Not only do I have a gate and a wall, but I have a house with air-conditioning and refrigerated food worth taking at all.  I can’t avoid how well-off I am, and denying it would offer no service to anyone, but I can use what I’ve got to ease the lives of those who don’t have as much.

There are many ways to use one’s resources for good, but the first step is to try and understand just how much you do have in comparison to just how little is available to others.  Every morning I get to wake up in a bed, inside, and take an anti-malarial pill that (hopefully) keeps each of these mosquito bites from becoming more than that.  Once I’ve taken my magic pill I get to eat a hot meal cooked with clean, bottled water.  In addition, if I were to walk down the street at night, I would be targeted by thieves due to my skin color, but left alone by sexual predators due to my gender.  Meanwhile, others all around the globe have so little that clean water is a myth and disease is a way of life.  No one person can totally solve any problem really worth solving, but if we can all get in where we fit in then together progress can be made.

As far as I am concerned this means it is up to me to pay attention to those less fortunate than myself and actually learn their stories.  All any of us can ever do is work from where we are, with what we’ve got, for what we want.  Not only am I a sucker for a good story, but I have always had an fairly good memory when it comes to the recitation of stories.  So what do I want?  Stories.  Everyone deserves to have their voice heard.

This is the reason I want to teach English to those who are interested.  This is also the reason that I plan to learn both French and Bambara, the local language.  Language defines our capacity to communicate, and communication is the key to teamwork.  I went to the market earlier in the week with Edmond, our chef, and Mahamadou, our driver so Edmond could pick up some food for the week.  It was an amazing experience and I plan to go with them again often when I can.  First we went to the supermarket so I could make a booze run and Edmond could pick up a few items there.  For the real food, however, like all our meats and fresh vegetables, Edmond needed to shop around some in the street marketplace.  The market we went to was a crowded intersection with small, one-room shops lining either side of each road.  Because this was my first time and I still did not know much French or any Bambara, I waited with Mahamadou at one of his friend’s paint shop on one of the corners.  With the SUV parked right there on the street in front of an ocean of mopeds we sat, relaxed, and people-watched with some friends of his for an hour or so.  The language barrier kept any conversation involving me fairly basic, but their fascination with my tattoos sparked a lesson on colors in Bambara.  Those guys were a warm, welcoming bunch with big smiles on their faces.  Even though I have access to many more resource than these guys,  they still offered me a seat with them and lit up my day with their smiling faces.  I hope to see them all again soon.  The unfortunate truth in most situations is that those in positions of privilege hardly mingle with those around them.  Instead, often times people use what money they have to do just the opposite and separate themselves from those with less.  Having worked in the service industry myself for some time I know what it is to be ignored by those who think themselves better than me, so as I learn more about the languages here I plan to learn as much as I can about everyone I meet here.  It’s sad how unusual this mindset may turn out to be.

Life is hard for everyone, but we can each do a little to ease the suffering of those around us by simply listening to what they have to say and caring about their well-being.  For now, for me, that means my job is to immerse myself with French lessons, French newspapers, French movies, and French-speakers until I can confidently begin to relay the endless stories I learn here back to you, the fine people of the internet.  Even before then, however, even a smile and a wave can completely change someone’s day.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now.  Time for me to get some sleep so I’m useful again.  Thanks for reading, and of course feel free to tell me your comments, questions and concerns.  If you’ve got a couple more minutes, attached is a fantastic poem about who we are.  I hope you enjoy.  Have a fantastic week everyone.  Au revoir!

Onward and upward,

-Z