There are days when I feel like I'm not being productive because showering, getting dressed, putting on my make-up, cooking something, emailing and doing a few phone calls is the most I can say I've achieved that day - if that. When my husband asks, "what did you do today?" I scramble to count the things I actually did. It's all very bad for my self-esteem! Now that I'm a mom, life is dictated by a little Napoleon in a onesie.
To make matters worse I was in the mall yesterday, hoping to tick at least a few things off my to do list, when I ran into a man who was verbally abusing his wife in the elevator. Granted, I didn't have all the facts, nor do I know for sure what the commotion was about. But nothing short of murder on her part, in my eyes, could have warranted such a display of abusive language.
The scene perturbed me and set off a whole series of angry thoughts that made me bark at the innocent teller in the bank. On my way back to the car, which was parked on the rooftop of the mall, I came across another fine specimen of the male gender. A smartly dressed young gentleman was standing next to my car, relieving himself. The audacity!
I got in the car and drove home. Traffic was thick, the sun was setting and I had achieved very little all day, except for sing songs of the gentle ant who helped a butterfly in distress to my son who was moaning in the child seat. If only the bus in front of me would go a little faster. It was a school bus. I could see four boys in the back of the bus, playing around. But at second glance, they weren't playing. One boy grabbed another by the back of his hair and violently shook his head. It looked like he was threatening the other boy, who, from his body language, was visibly intimidated. A bully obviously. How angry it made me, as I got to my street and turned left, leaving the bus to the thick of rush hour traffic – and the boy to God.
Who was raising these kids? Who had raised the young man who peed against my tire? Who had raised the man in the elevator who was yelling at his wife? And then it dawned on me. A mother. A mother who was doing nothing of value all day except showering and getting dressed – and perhaps raising a young child who would later become a man.
I know it takes mothers and fathers to raise children, but I can speak only for mothers. We are the primary educators of our children. We have a massive responsibility, one that is not to be taken lightly. And what is most baffling is that behind every abusive or dominating man is a mother who raised him. Sure, and a father, but it's us women who complain of abusive husbands and dominating men, so doesn't the change have to start with us? What are we doing wrong? Maybe we need to start by valuing and focusing on our job and praying each day that we may fulfil our duty to the very best of our ability. This is a tremendously weighty task.
Next time your husband asks what you did today, you say "I'm trying to raise a son who will later come home to his wife and ask her, 'What can I do to support you today, oh primary educator of the next generation?'"
My first two children's classes with the kids down the road have been awesome, amazing and challenging at the same time. Our first lesson revolved around "unity" – we defined it, learned what it is in Zulu (si hlangene!) and talked about some of its implications. We also sang a song about unity, played a game around it and drew pictures depicting what unity can be like in a family setting.
When they came in the next week singing "we are drops of one ocean, leaves one tree..." I thought I had made some real progress. So I was all the more shocked when I asked them if they loved all the people in the world and they replied "Yes, except for Maria!"
I realized in that moment how much I still have to learn about children and their young, tender hearts and minds. So I took a deep breath, sent a telegram to God asking for assistance and for patience and began the next lesson, talking about "how do we create unity?" We looked at what it means to look for the good in people, no matter how hard it may seem. They explained that Maria is a jealous girl who is arrogant and makes fun of them at school. I asked them whether they had ever asked her to be their friend? Did she have friends at all? Maybe she was alone? We thought long and hard to search for the one good quality that she might have. And the kids agreed it would have to be her talent for mathematics. That was a start. So I suggested we don't try to combat darkness with darkness, but rather with light. Let's try and shed some light on her heart, no matter how nasty and mean she can be and see if we can't slowly help her be a more pleasant person? They got excited by that. We made a drawing to the quote: "O Friend, In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love", and wrote Maria little letters expressing what we thought was great about her. To further deepen on the quote, we planted a sapling in some earth to see if it grows. We realized we would need to feed it water and love over a long period of time to see results. And that's what it's like to plant the rose of love in your heart. It takes time and patience.
We ended the lesson with a jump in the pool and while the girls were having fun, I thought of the weighty task that child-rearing is. I teach them about loving, forgiving and being selfless, but at the same time they are children, young girls at that. And so I also need to teach them about justice, about confidence and standing their grounds. About knowing their worth, their boundaries and protecting them. People could take advantage of them. What a balancing act!
If we spent the money that goes into wars and armaments on the education our children, both morally, spiritually and "secularly" – we would see results within two generations, and probably solve most of the problems we're trying to solve with guns right now. It's just about what you plant in their fertile young hearts that will eventually flourish and rule: guns or roses?
In our world most people believe that their way, or their religion, race, or nationality is better than that of others. This paradigm of exclusivity, fragmentation and disunity is perpetuated in all of our societal structures. Our education system is one area where competition and the pursuit of success at the expense of others is harnessed. Not so in the town of Little Hampton, England, where Margaret Appa has implemented a method of teaching that is based on mutual support and the belief that we each have unique gems, talents and insights that are not threatening to others but mutually enriching.
Written & hosted by: LEYLA HAIDARIAN
Produced by: NAYSAN NARAQI, JANITA APPA, & HAMISH MCPHARLIN
Edited by: LEYLA & RYAN HAIDARIAN
Filmed by: HAMISH MCPHARLIN
Executive produced by: NAYSAN NARAQI
"TEACHERS" written by: JASON "MATU" GREEN, BENNY CASSETTE, ROBERT SINCLAIR, and TARA ELLIS; Performed by DAWNBREAKER COLLECTIVE
"SAY GOD SUFFICETH" written & performed by: JB ECKL & ERIC DOZIER
SPECIAL THANKS to Margaret Appa & all of her Students: Ann, Audrey, Dan, Jess, Libby, & Margaret
Gems of Inestimable Value
A recurring theme on our doubletake website has become the importance of holistic education and of loving and raising children. This video uses quotes from many of the world's religions and constitutes a medley of footage from some of our existing doubletake videos. Its title, "Gems of Inestimable Value", is inspired by the quote: "Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value.
Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures." (Baha'i Writings). This video precedes next month's brand new release, which explores the implications of this very quote in redefining the meaning of education and introduces an exciting and entirely new approach to the theme. So stay tuned!
I chose this provocative title for my blog this week, because of what I've been witnessing in the media lately. There are a growing number of advocacy and psychology shows that give people life skills and tips about how to manage their life. One of the shows I've been watching is in fact a Persian show. Callers call in and tell their stories and the TV psychologist analyzes their concerns and gives his view on the situation.
Of the 6 shows I watched in 2 weeks, I'd say over 90% of the callers were female. And all their stories revolved around marriage problems or abuse by a male member of the family.
One lady was beaten by her father, deserted by her mother, wondered the streets of Tehran and finally found her way overseas where her life of misery continued, albeit with more economic possibilities. Her number one need was someone who would love her. Several ladies called in because their husbands were addicted to drugs. They had "tried" to leave their husbands, they had "tried" to call it quits. But for various reasons remained in the relationship either "for the sake of the kids" or worse, if they didn't have kids, they started making them in order to "save" their relationship. "I thought things would get better if I had children", was their rationale. Often struck with economic problems, these marriages were really only a poor excuse for being too weak or too dependent to call it quits.
Now, I'm not an anti-make-up, anti-cooking, anti-raising kids feminist, the likes of which we see so often on the other side of the sad spectrum, but this scenario is very alarming. Every time the psychologist boiled it down, the cause of inertia for women was their fear of standing on their own two feet. They could not see themselves being economically independent. They had many other excuses such as lack of support and understanding from family member:
"what will people say?"
"it will hurt the kids if I get divorced"
"but he's trying to stay clean/ faithful..."
The psychologist was almost always furious to hear that women had had children in order to save their marriages. He made it very clear that children should be wished into a stable, happy family. And the only real piece of advice that the psychologist was able to give was "educate your girls, your daughters, so that they don't have to lead a life like yours!"
And that is my little message for today. Women must be educated. They are the first educators of the next generation, they spread their knowledge and they are empowered by education. Education will give them confidence, security, independence and the right to say yes or no. The education of women will ease the process of bringing about the equality of women and men, it will have a significant impact on ills such as HIV/AIDS, human trafficking and all the other sad realities that women around the world face because their life is not in their own hands.
This blog is especially dedicated to one of my closest friends. Today I got news that she fell pregnant. She is married, she and her husband share deep bonds in their Catholic faith, they both have jobs, and she is one year away from getting her PHD. I'm proud of every decision she has made in her life, even if her childhood was not always easy.
My last thought of the day is: When as women we do stand our ground, we must be careful to have mercy and compassion towards men who are themselves learning, slowly learning, what it means to be a real man.
One of the many ways that I meditate and regenerate my strength is by thinking of my childhood. I was fortunate to have what I consider to be a perfect childhood. Of course the world was not perfect around me and my parents and grandparents, whom I was lucky enough to live with, faced some profound challenges in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Although they suffered and struggled profusely, they never let me feel anything but strength, stability and happiness. Their love for me and the love they instilled in me for God and his divine manifestations shaped my earliest sentiments. Those days were filled with light and I am so fortunate to remember them with clarity.
From my earliest days my family not only instilled in me a love of God, but also a love of humanity. They made huge sacrifices and were able to send me to an international school, where I met children who came from all corners of the world: My friends were from Cameroon, Philippines, Argentina, Nigeria, India, Canada and virtually every nation of this world. They represented all religions and my mother made sure that I viewed and love them all the same, irrespective of their background.
When I said something offensive about any one of them out of the ignorance of my years, my mom would correct me, like a gardener who lovingly but firmly cuts the boughs and offshoots of her plants, in order that they may grow and flourish from strength to strength.
Sometimes the cutting hurt, but all along my cells would feel the sincerity of the love that fueled the process. My moral values and my compassion were planted in those years.
I am very aware of the fact that no parent is perfect and thus, as we grow up we must take our education and progress into our own hands. As we mature, we become responsible for our independent journey and search for truth. We become responsible for the truths we find and must express them and live them out regardless of the pressures we face. Thus, even those of us who have not had the privilege of a loving or stable childhood have the chance of using our experiences to fuel our spiritual progress.
Yet in tribute to those amazing childhood years of mine I would like to show you the following video clip. It was shot on celluloid film and the sound strip went missing over the years, but it is funny that even back then, I was very happy to sit in front of the camera and philosophize about life! (See Persian V-blog)
Monte Carmelo is a social project in Brazil dedicated to the education of underpriviledged children.
A film by Flavio Rassekh