One of the trending topics on Twitter today was ‘mention a date you will never forget’. It’s incredibly rare that a trending topic is of personal inspiration to me, so I thought I would share my answer in blog form, here. The only date that came to mind was November 09, 1989. That was the day the Berlin Wall came down.
I am of German descent, on my mother’s side. I have family in Germany. For the majority of my life, when asked where my ancestors came from, my answer was West Germany. Even though I was raised in Canada, thousands of miles away from the Fatherland, I had spent some time in Germany and always felt a deep connection to my German roots. I never thought I would live to see the day that the wall would come down.
So, that day in 1989, I found myself sitting in front of the television, in stunned silence with tears of unbridled joy streaming down my face as I watched images of the German people tear down the wall that had divided their country for decades. I sat there riveted, as families who hadn’t seen one another for a lifetime were reconnected in rapturous embraces.
The Berlin Wall falling planted the seed for a united Europe. Just as a united Europe might one day be seen as the impetus for a united world. A united Germany is proof that we can work together to improve our common future, even if we fundamentally disagree.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I will leave you with images of that fateful day set to the powerful music and lyrics of the Scorpions singing Winds of Change… a song that instantly transports me back to that day in November, 1989 and never fails to make me cry.
I invite you to share a date you will never forget.
Ever since the advent of the Gregorian calendar, there occurs a numeric phenomenon where the day, month and year are the same number within the first 12 years of each century. With all of the fuss over 12-12-12 and last year, 11-11-11 and so on, I can’t help but wonder if people lost their damned minds at the turn of the last century or the century before that? Or were people just too busy trying to survive that this numerical anomaly went by unnoticed. Do we really have so much free time on our hands that we have assigned meaning to the meaningless? The truly pathetic thing is that the meaning is different depending on who you ask.
Contrary to popular belief, numbers are not mystical or magical. Numbers were invented by man to count, label and measure. They are a tool we use to try to find order amid chaos. Calendars have been changed numerous times since the beginning of recorded time, so what we think is 12-12-12, actually isn’t 12-12-12 if you refer to the Islamic calendar, the Hebrew calendar or the Hindu calendar or even one of the first calendars used: the Early Roman calendar.
So why all the fuss about a man-made system to measure time? The one thing we know for sure about mankind is that we make mistakes… constantly, so why put so much faith into something that is so subjective?
A little fear can be healthy. A little faith is dangerous.
May I suggest that faith is born of fear. Without crippling fear of the unknown, we would not jump so quickly to put faith in an answer, even a subjective or nonsensical answer (yes I am comparing this numerical hokum to faith in religion/god). Or perhaps we are just so bored that we need something to look forward to… even if that something is the end of the world. If only we used our fear to fuel our curiosity instead of to control the masses or to excuse stupidity, we might be further along the evolutionary ladder than to think that just because the Gregorian calendar says it’s December 12, 2012 that it is a special day, full of more possibilities than any other day.
There was an episode of Seinfeld called The English Patient in which Elaine hated the movie the English Patient but was surrounded on all sides by people who loved the film. She tries to go along with public opinion until finally she hits her breaking point when her boss takes her to see it.
There are a lot of things I feel that way about. Things I loathe, that the majority of people like. The only difference is I am not afraid to be the lone voice of dissent. I find that if you are not afraid to speak up in these types of scenarios, you will be surprised to find other, like minded people who have been deeply closeted by popular opinion and fear of speaking up.
For instance, I hate summer!
Yes I can’t stand the hot weather and it never ceases to amaze me that anyone would go out of their way to travel to tropical destinations when there is a wonderful chill in the air. The heat makes me uncomfortable, I get heat rash on the palms of my hands and between my fingers. My skin gets oilier, as does my hair. I get lethargic. My joints swell. Not to mention the buckets of sweat that come pouring from under my breasts staining every shirt I wear with huge crescent moons. And don’t even get me started on the beach with it’s tiny grains of sand that follow you for months after just one visit and the hoards of sea birds on a scavenger hunt for your packed lunch. (regular readers might remember that I am deathly afraid of birds) I can’t wait for this summer to finally be over.
This may look pretty to you, but to me, it’s a nightmare
Which brings me to my next unpopular opinion, I abhor birds. There I said it. They are nothing but vermin with wings in my book. I can’t wrap my head around why anyone would want of these things in their home… especially a large bird. In fact, I hate anything that flies without the aid of an airplane, helicopter, glider or balloon and that includes butterflies. I don’t trust those creatures, never have, never will. My flesh is crawling just writing about them.
Time Square on New Year’s Eve does not look like a good time to me.
Then there’s events. Why would you want to go someplace because everyone is going to be there? For me that is the exactly the same reason why I wouldn’t go. For example, on New Year’s Eve it seems that the majority of people want to stand shoulder to shoulder in a loud club, or in Time Square (or whatever venue is famous for gathering a crowd, on that night, in your town) to “ring in the New Year’. That is hell on earth to me. It’s the same with a huge concert or sporting event. I’d rather be at home watching on my TV in comfort and peace getting a much better view of the action and not having to fight traffic after it’s over.
Finally, and I know this will be a very unpopular opinion. I don’t like the United States.
Don’t believe the hype.
I have traveled the United States, extensively. Hell, I’ve even lived there for a while. The one thing that irks me most about this country to the south of me is that it is built on a shaky foundation of hype. Let me explain what I mean by this. I can recall the first time I saw Hollywood Boulevard in person. This famous locale had been built up in my mind through movies and advertising for years and when I got there, I was incredibly disappointed. It’s filthy and unsafe. If I had kids I would never take them to see it. New York was a similar experience for me, but there was the added bonus of the stench of urine and rotting garbage to go along with the dirt and crime. Don’t get me wrong, there are nicer cities in the U.S. of A, like Chicago and Boston, but none of them are all that clean or feel as safe as anywhere in Canada does. Maybe, coming from Canada I am spoiled, but everywhere I have been in Europe (with the exception of London) was much cleaner and felt safer than the cities I have seen in the States.
Also, everywhere you go south of the 49th parallel, the people are so happy to tell you that they are living in the ‘greatest country on earth’. Even more hype. If you look at the above map, you will see the words most and best littered all over the place. To me any country that feels the need to purport it’s superlative status is not living in reality. No country is the greatest. We all have great things and not so great things. This kind of delusion is dangerous because it forces people to turn a blind eye to the blight and the poverty right around the corner and focus solely on the manicured lawns of the rich and famous. Even the phrase ‘leader of the free world’ which is used to describe the President of the United States is not only arrogant, but just plain untrue. The President of the United States has no more or less influence over the ‘free world’ than the Prime Minister of Canada, the German Chancellor or the French President have. If Americans could take a good look around using their eyes and not their ego, notice the problems inherent in their country and do something to improve them instead of just excusing them away by saying things like ‘it’s better than some other places’. If the American government would focus on bettering their own nation instead of wasting enormous sums of money policing the rest of the world, so that everyone would act like they act (which, by the way, no one ever asked you to do). If they would stop publicly taking sole credit for things that they only played a part in accomplishing, like winning World War II or the Mars Rover. If they would stop creating celebrities out of people who hoard things, or put out sex tapes and actually encourage substantive behavior. In other words if they would walk the walk, then I could see some reasoning behind saying you were the best.
Take heart America, you are the best at one thing, for sure… PR.