Thursday, June 19, 2014

What's not in a name?

Do you murder names and surnames? Not your own, someone else's. It's bad enough when you misspell or mispronounce a name, it's far worse when you do that to a surname, and smear the good family name. No matter how tongue-twisting a name is, it can and should be spelt or said correctly. All it requires is a little tact, a little patience, and a little sensitivity.

Writing or pronouncing a name wrongly can be hurtful though most people at the receiving end won't say anything or show they’re annoyed. They'll grit their teeth and bear it quietly, and damn you to hell.

I speak from considerable experience as would nearly everyone on my father's side. So far we've survived through it and, no doubt, future generations too will. I've seen and heard at least six fantastic variations of my surname and none of those match up. The mutilated forms are all I hear mostly so much so that sometimes I wonder if one of those might not actually be my family name. At such times I take out my birth certificate but what difference will it make if people don't know how to pronounce it.

Conversely, less than ten people have uttered my surname correctly during twenty-eight years of my life as a career journalist. I tip my hat to these thoughtful people.

In my opinion, wrong name-calling is worse than failing to remember a name. There, at least, you’re keeping mum and not opening your mouth and putting your platypus foot in it.

So what prompts one to butcher another’s name? I’m assuming its plain ignorance and indifference. While the first denotes one’s failure to get facts right, the second smacks of callousness and an I-couldn’t-care-less attitude, which is sadly but increasingly becoming the social template of the 21st century.

There is a solution but I wouldn’t wager my good family name upon it. Next time you want to call out to me, a simple “Hey you!” will do. Just keep the finger down. I can't promise that I won't turn around and glower at you.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Alphabet Quotes: G is for Giving

I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.
— Maya Angelou

Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity, when I give I give myself.
— Walt Whitman

No one has ever become poor by giving.
— Anne Frank

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.
— C.S. Lewis

It is every man's obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.
— Albert Einstein

What goes around comes around

In The Pursuit of Happyness, Chris Gardner, the character played by Will Smith, is desperately trying to fix appointments for the broking firm where he is working as an intern. During one sales call he manages to get a twenty minute appointment with a potential but a very busy and important client. What is striking about the scene is that the decision-maker at the other end of the line agrees to give Chris, a struggling salesman and a complete stranger, a few minutes of his precious time. There is no need for him to entertain Chris in the first place, and yet he does. Now this is only a film.

In real life how many actually listen to sales reps when they call leave alone give them appointments? Many do, often patiently, but most don’t, often showing their ugly side.

That ugly side can mean anything from shouting and abusing to disconnecting and slamming down the phone to accepting the call and putting it aside, to all of these.

When you watch the down-on-his-luck Chris Gardner putting the best smile on his face and doing the best he can to extract an appointment or two from a long list of names in front of him, you know life at his end of the line can’t be easy. You feel for Chris who dreams of giving his young son a good life.

But the irony is that while you want Chris to get a few appointments, you bang down the phone when the real Chris Gardner calls you and pleads with you to spare him a few minutes of your time. All he wants is for you to listen to him.

Every one of us is in some way or the other a Chris Gardner, begging, pleading, coaxing, cajoling, demanding…something out of someone.

Chris is doing his job, and so are you. He has a product to sell, and so do you. What happens to Chris can happen to you. And what goes around usually comes around.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Put life back into your years

When the years slip out of your life, it's time to put life back into your years, by making the best and the most of what is left. And the only way to make your remaining years truly count is to start living now. In other words, as has been famously said, live today as if there is going to be no tomorrow. Forty is the middle ground and a good benchmark to shed the old you and start anew.

If you are not forty yet, chances are you won’t notice the years breezing past. If you are over forty, chances are you will be reasonably obsessed with your balance years. This is why it is probably said life begins at forty. It is that mid-stage of life when you suddenly become aware of lost years, of time gone by, of growing old, and of the fact that there is no turning the clock back. You look over your shoulder and wonder where, at least, the last twenty years went and what you did with them. What have I been doing all these years? Did I waste all that time? Did I achieve anything significant? Where can I go from here? In fact, self-inquiry will be your starting point as you enter the fourth and the most decisive decade of your life.

Once you are forty and over you will also develop a philosophical view of life from which will spring your desire to start living your life as you were really meant to live it. There will be little place for frivolities.

What can you do to enrich your life and accomplish more than you ever have in the past? Plenty. However, before you get down to the nitty-gritty of living wisely, meaningfully, and productively, you need to do something else first—go back to the basics. You need to recondition your negative personality—your thoughts, energies, feelings, and emotions—into positive ones. Start with a clear conscience. Make a clean break from your self-centered past. For, without some form of inner cleansing, you will achieve little.

First and foremost, get over your past. Let go of the bad times, the barriers, and the bitterness. Cherish only the happy moments and memories. You’ll be surprised how many there have been.

Have no regrets over yours or someone else’s past actions and mistakes. What is done is done. The more you brood over it, the more you alone will be unhappy. You cannot put spilt milk back into the pitcher; all you can do is wipe the floor clean and have a fresh glass of milk.

Your past and your regrets are like excess baggage. There should be no room for them in your life. Offload them before they weigh you down more than they already have. Imagine what would happen if airlines did not restrict passengers to a maximum of 15 to 20 kg of luggage—planes might never take off. Neither will you.

Learn to forgive those who have harmed you. As Gandhi said, “Forgiveness is not the attribute of the weak. It is the attribute of the strong and the brave.” It takes a great deal of courage and compassion to forgive someone. It is also one of life’s great ironies that your own peace and happiness lies in your capacity to forgive others.

Life would be stale without laughter in our lives. Whoever said, “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; cry, and you cry alone,” was a wise person, speaking no doubt from personal experience. As was Charlie Chaplin when he observed, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” Doctors admit that laughter has potential health benefits and nowhere more so than in our mental well-being. When you laugh it puts you and everyone around you in a good mood, which conversely, makes you and everyone else laugh more. It’s also a prescription-less antidote for our fears, worries, and anxieties.

Finally, the one thing that will help you make a smooth and peaceful transition through the second half of your life is an abundance of faith and prayer, which is the sum total of all the reconditioning you put yourself through. If you haven’t taken recourse to it, then it’s imperative that you do. When everything else fails, it’s only your faith and prayer that will see you through your trials and tribulations. Wear this life jacket and you will be able to swim through the most turbulent sea without fear of drowning.

To recap, the five key things that will enable you to live your life to the fullest, in your forties and beyond, are: one, getting over your past and not worrying too much about the future, which essentially means living in the present; two, having no regrets or recriminations and starting with a clean slate; three, a capacity to forgive, and forget if possible, and letting bygones be bygones; four, laughing more and weeping less; and five, an abiding faith in the power of prayer. Do this and the good life will be your biggest reward ever.