Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book Notes: Simplicity Parenting | Chapter One: Why Simplify?

"Simplicity Parenting" by Kim John Payne

Chapter One: Why Simplify?

1. Kids are geniuses when it comes to observation of patterns. They know, just from observing our behaviours as parents, what are the things that the family hold dear. They can figure out, by themselves, the family values and the priorities set by the parents, intentionally or unintentionally and they are very much affected by them.

2. Childhood takes time and it requires it. It is a phase of foundation building of the self. Patience and constant reminders of what should matter more are required from the parents. They set the pattern for the family and the pace with which the family moves. What the parents value most is reflected in their lifestyle and behaviours; children will be directly affected by this. The children feed off of their parents.

3. It is never too late to reset our priorities and to reestablish better family values for the kids to learn moving forward. Human beings, at all levels of development, have certain levels of plasticity; they can change. To change to a more simpler life doesn't simply means throw out all your things. It is more than that. To simplify life means to be content with enough, to be centered around things and people that matter most, and to allow room for natural and healthy individual development of self and self-development (especially for the child).

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Is Idealistic Realistic?

Following my train of thought in my previous post entitled "Live Simply, So That Others May Simply Live", I came to this question:

"Is idealistic realistic?"

Many of us, if not all of us, love idealistic rhetorics. We love hearing them, most probably because they give us a sense of hope. A sense of hope is good, but what happens when it crosses over into the territory of false hope?

Perceiving our world right now as an idealistic world is like perceiving a different world; a world in which we didn't live in before, we are not living in now, and we won't live in the future. In any time and in any place, we are bound to see happenings, things, or people that are less than idealistic.

We see imperfections and they don't please us. In the real world, imperfections exist in the very fabric of reality. Does that mean that we forget our idealism and accept all these imperfections? Yes, and no. We can't live with them and we can't live without them.

Our ideals represent our potentials. They show us the kind of people we can be and the kind of people others can be. At the same time, we shouldn't mistake our ideals with the reality. We shouldn't mix them together to a point where we can't distinguish between the two anymore.

Our ideals are what or who we strive to become. The reality is what or who we are. We accept our reality, our imperfections, while hoping and striving to become better and better - getting closer and closer to our ideals.

We cannot and will not reach our ideals, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Imagine if tomorrow you become perfect in every way. Is there anything left to work on? Do we look forward to anything else now that we are already perfect?

To me, no. If I am already perfect, then I wouldn't need to work on anything anymore. I am done. I would imagine my life would be very boring from that point on, because prior to that point, I get up every morning thinking that I have something to do on that day, something to work on, and something to improve.

But if everything is already perfect, already ideal, then what is left?

In a way, my imperfections keep me going. I acknowledge my reality, my imperfect nature, but I choose not to be complacent and to settle in it. Because I know, I can be better. Pursuing my ideals, amidst my reality, is a never ending process.

Ideals are for us to pursue, not for us to live in. We shouldn't be absolutely pessimistic, thinking that everything is dark, gloomy, and pointless. We shouldn't be absolutely optimistic either, thinking that everything is candy canes, rainbows, and fairies.

Pessimism and optimism are on a spectrum. We shouldn't be on either end of it. We should have a healthy amount of both, but between the two, we should tilt a little bit more on the side of optimism. We should be realistically optimistic.

Realistic optimism is where we acknowledge and deal with our imperfections and the imperfections of this world but at the same time, working to improve them to get closer and closer, like an asymptote, to our ideals - the greater versions of ourselves.

So, is idealistic realistic? It is, only if you are realistically idealistic.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Love Remains

Change is inevitable, but there are things that stay the same. These constants are essential because they keep us grounded and they give us meaning to life. They give us a sense of purpose and a good reason to get up in the morning.

Wisdom, justice, compassion, honesty, gratitude, patience, hope, courage, and happiness are just a few of many things in our lives that are evergreen. No matter what time we live in, where we live, and what culture we belong to, these things that what we hold dear to our hearts.

These are universal values that keep humanity intact. Knowing that we have all of these in common might provide a sense of belonging. You and I are very much alike. We see each other in each other, and despite our differences, we are not that different after all.

Having said that, these universal values can change, not in terms of what they are but in terms of how they manifest. For example, love. Love is a universal value that transcends time, place, and culture. However, we can easily see that we evolve in how we love, even though love is still the same.

I love my mother, but I didn't love her the same way I loved her when I was 5. My love for her grew and shrunk over the years (yes, we had our fair share of rough patches), my understanding of love changes as I understand more and more about her sacrifices, and my way of loving her is much more complex and refined as compared to when I was 5.

But one thing stays the same: I still love her.

We might (or most probably will) change in how we love our family. But we will never stop loving them and that love will remain. But even when that love remains, we still need to express that love and we need to do it often.

Just because our family knows we love them, it doesn't mean that we stop expressing our love towards them. Like the 5-year-old me, I still hug my mother, kiss her hand, kiss her cheeks, and make silly jokes with her to make her laugh.

Of course, my silly jokes are much more witty and clever now than they were before.

I hope.


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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Memorization is not Education

There is a saying that goes something like this: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime".

I try to incorporate this saying into how I help people. Whenever someone emails me or asks me a question directly, I refrain from giving a straightforward answer.

I try to help the person finds the answer himself/herself. I try to encourage the person to think and to reflect upon his/her situation and optimizing the knowledge that person already has.

Interestingly, in many cases, these people already know the answer. Perhaps they never understand the answer that they already know. Perhaps they only memorized the answer without giving it much thought as to how that knowledge can benefit them.

Allah knows best.

My aim in helping them is to try to make them independent; to be able to think for themselves and to not rely too much on spoon-fed, black-and-white answers. I don't want them to keep coming back to me (or to anyone else) every time they face an issue or a problem.

Not that I am against a person asking for help, I just don't want them to rely too much on other people. Too much reliance on other people, that is the problem here. I want them to be confident in themselves and in what they know.

They shouldn't live life in total reliance of other people, because other people can't always be there to help them.

This might be different than what they are accustomed to. They might be inclined to just fork the answer right out of me and copy-paste it into their lives. Whenever I ask them to think deeper, some of them (or should I say, many of them) struggle with it.

They are not used to thinking for themselves and trying to find the answer. They are used to waiting for the answer from the teacher and write them down in the exam. It is easier that way than to have to "waste" energy on thinking.

I am familiar with the culture of memorizing answers and spitting them out in exams. But real life is very different, more complex, and more nuanced than exams.

In part, I think this is one of the negative effects of exam-oriented education system. By "exam-oriented", I mean to study for the sake of exam grades and not for the sake of gaining more knowledge and understanding useful for the betterment of one's life and that of others.

It is better to teach them how to find the answer, rather than to teach them how to memorize the answer. Because in life, there will be times when nobody is going to be there to spoon-feed you.

You need to learn how to feed yourself.