MENTAL RESERVOIR – Kaleidoscope

– Carlos M. Frota

Kaleidoscope … many  things in my head, when I am starting to write this chronicle! Many things from many sources … quite disturbing sometimes, when we feel over-informed … and having no time and  sometimes no patience to digest everything … and convert them into well grounded personal opinions…

So my title is justified! I will try to slowly extricate from my mental reservoir what matters mostly for me today.

I am seated this morning  in my usual place, in my usual room, walking throughout the world, as I usually do. Flying over borders, just by putting my fingers in the correct places of my tablet’s screen.

I follow briefly the political agenda of the day, what world leaders do or not do, in what region a new conflict erupted and why, what are the conditions for dialogue and diplomacy (reviving my old self) …

And image after image, I recognize men and women and children belonging to different cultures, speaking different languages, familiar to different traditions.

What a beautiful landscape God created, I think. Like a garden.

With flowers of different colors, different scents, different shapes.

(Thinking about gardens put me far away from the brutality of some wildlife documentaries NatGeo style, where the laws of the jungle remind me always of the fragility of human order and the deep reality of our common biological nature with the beasts …).

Many human faces then. We share the same “humanity,” I talk to myself, but in which measure are we different? And what is being different, anyway?

Is it obeying diverse dress codes, choosing  colors and styles unfamiliar to others? Is it praying to different gods, or to different names of the same God?  Is it to eat different food, celebrating life and mourning death with different gestures and words?  Are not joy and sadness the same?

Difference in looking at the same direction, not interpreting what we really see in an identical  way? And how meaningful is all this ?

Understanding others is always a challenge. Because that is the opposite of our inner tribalism, feeling unease at no longer communicating through the same  values and behaviors.

All of us fear differences. But how to manage them was converted into a basic rule of peaceful co-existence in a globalized world. It’s not a mere convenience, anymore. It’s our survival kit …

The streets of big and small cities, in America, in Europe, and more and more in Asia and Africa, are full of people from different origins, very often forming communities not necessarily linked to each other  by bridges of cross-cultural contacts or just human relations .

Bridges, I mentioned. What can be stronger for building human bridges than human love? But…

Marriages between couples of different ethnic and or cultural backgrounds occur much more often today than in any time before . This is true. But even now they are strongly forbidden in many communities or totally  disapproved, seen  as treason to the group’s cohesion. And as we know, in some places the transgressors suffer not only social ostracism but violent persecution and punishment.

Love, passion, are then the topic of beautiful novels and romantic movies. But before this, not seldom unfortunately,  we see suffering, murder, blood, drama. In the name of tradition.  And sometimes in the name of God.

Many villages within the  city

Some time ago I read with dismay  the testimony of a young man of Bangladeshi origin, born and living all his life in London, but who have the first  contacts with “white people” for the first time when he was well beyond eighteen years old! He had lived his entire  life as a kid and an adolescent within his community, with rare incursions to the outside world. And this in London, with a well established tradition of cosmopolitanism …

Strong symbolism surrounds  this case ! Negative symbolism, by the way! How can this happen in the 21st century?

We know that in  the immense  metropolises all over the world  impersonal relations prevail over  personal ones.

In the streets we find  crowds and their cold anonymity instead of  neighbors and their warm approach.

And what do different people have basically in the common? What  they  see in the media, through TV  (in the previous era of CNN  inspired networks), but today in social platforms throughout  internet.

Are people closer to each other through these new technologies of communication? Yes and no.

It will be nonsense to say that platforms like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram are pure devil…Their benefits are quite obvious.

But we are more and more aware of the dark side of this hew digital paradise…

Why think about the new social media in the particular context of this writing?  Because they killed distances and  put people together, with the limitations we know better and better.

Thinking about the public debate about major social or political issues of our time. Who  could predict the relevance of the new social media in stimulating discussion and so shaping public opinion?   

One or two examples …

Today, as in many other days in recent times, I feel spiritually hungry for good news. Of good examples. Of good reasons for hope, in our hopeless world. Of good reasons for Faith, in a godless civilization. And I find two examples of hope, quite different from one another.

After the massacre of Christchurch, Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, went to a mosque in New York and made a speech which cannot be forgotten or ignored.

Antonio Guterres  promised to take action, at the level of the world organization he leads, in order to consider all places of prayer, of all religions around the world, as sacred places, deserving special protection from the international community.

The idea is a beautiful one, but sincerely I just don’t know how can it be implemented.

I am not imagining Guterres sending blue helmet soldiers (the UN army, composed of military of different nationalities coming from UN member states) to protect every mosque, synagogue, church, temple, chapel, prayer room, in every corner of the world, in order to transform into reality his beautiful, generous design.

But the idea is there. To build a better world, uniting people instead of pulling them apart, respecting differences instead of exploiting them as tools for power struggle..And so on and so forth.

The other comforting idea which inspires me is Francis, the smiling face of modesty. The Church is suffering, in some parts of the world is losing perhaps  moral authority, but one thing I have for sure. The holy man wearing white clothes is there.  HE IS THERE!

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