By Leo Babauta There’s a sense of incompleteness in our lives. We have felt it since adolescence, at least, if not since early childhood — it’s a feeling that something is wrong with us, that something is missing, or that we’re missing out on something in the world. It’s a feeling of disconnection or loneliness…
Today marks 100 years since women in the UK were given the right to vote.
Actually they weren’t ‘given’ this right, they had to fight for it. Women who were involved in this movement were called the suffragettes and many made tremendous sacrifices for this cause. At its peak, a suffragette named Emily Dickinson died for the cause, prompting parliament to pass the People Act of 1918 allowing women to vote.
However the Act did not grant voting rights to all women, it only allowed women over 30 years old and who were home-owners the right to vote. It was a decade later, in June 14, 1928, that ALL women over 21 years old were allowed a say in the political process.
Sadly, Emmeline Pankhurst, the founder of the suffrage movement, was not alive to witness this monumental occasion. She had died just eighteen days earlier.
Today it’s easy to take for granted this right that women a century ago fought so hard to attain. The very thought of an all male voting system seems almost mythical to my imagination. Yet, it was real once upon a time.
I am so grateful for the women (and men) who sacrificed so much so that I too can have a voice. It’s now up to us to carry that torch forward, to dismantle more barriers that are in the way of full gender equality.
Don’t rest on past triumphs; we still have work to do.
Here are some interesting links on women’s voting rights around the world:
- A timeline of women’s voting rights around the world. New Zealeand was the first country to allow women to vote (1893), Saudi Arabia is the latest country to allow women to vote (2011).
- Suffregette, the movie. My personal best quote: “All my life I’ve done what men told me. Well I can’t have that anymore.” Maude Watts
- Six amazing voting facts from around the world. The Vatican is the only country where women still can’t vote.
1. Today we live in a world obsessed with the idea of purity: a ‘clean’, un-adulterated version of who we are as a species, and at its core, the driving force behind popular political, religious and social agendas such as nationalism and radical fundamentalism. In a recent op-ed piece featured in The Guardian, Mohsin Hamid, the award-winning author of ‘Exit: West’ and ‘The Reluctant Fundementalist’ argues that there is no such thing as ‘pure’. We are, in essence, by-products of a mixture of atoms, blood-lines, and diverse histories. The author makes a persuasive call-to-arms summoning us to be of the impure, a fitting response to this destructive idea of purity.
“Climate change. Mass migration. Rampant inequality. None of the most pressing and daunting problems today facing humanity have simple answers. As a species, we require creative new approaches, yet-to-be-imagined leaps forward. But while we might not yet know what the solutions to these challenges are, we should already suspect from where the breakthroughs are most likely to come. They are likely to come from mongrelisation. From profound impurity. From people and ideas at risk of being suppressed and marginalised in our purity-obsessed age.”
I am sold.
2. I am only a few two chapters into this book but I am already really excited about it. Published in 2015, Stuffocation is a book that addresses the social, psychological, and environmental dangers of excessive consumerism and offers solutions to this. Drawing examples from research studies and personal testimonies, the author, James Wallman, makes an important case for living more with less.
3. A display commemorating the Holocaust Memorial Day at the library
This year’s theme of the HMD is ‘The Power of Words”. This display at my local library examines the impact that language has on influencing our lives and serves as a powerful reminder to choose our own words wisely.
The Holocaust and the recent genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda, and South Sudan grew from propaganda machines that incited hate and violence towards specific groups of people of a certain ethnicity and/or religion. The oppressed were given labels (vermin, cockroaches) to dehumanise them. These atrocities grew because words were used to perpetrate evil.
However words are also powerful agents of the collective good.
‘I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I am so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s in me. When I write I can shake off all my cares; my sorrow disappears; my spirits are revived.’ Anne Frank
Read more stories from Holocaust and genocide survivors here. Their words offer so much hope despite the horrific evils they have faced in the hands of their oppressors.
“In the end, people don’t view their life as merely the average of all its moments—which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story. A story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens. Measurements of people’s minute-by-minute levels of pleasure and pain miss this fundamental aspect of human existence. A seemingly happy life maybe empty. A seemingly difficult life may be devoted to a great cause. We have purposes larger than ourselves.”
― Atul Gawande,
A few years ago, I was sitting on a big rock a few meters outside of my parents’ home, crying.
I was well into a messy divorce and far away from a place I had called home for almost ten years. I had no idea where I would end up living next, or if I would still have my children by the time the divorce was finalised. I missed my circle of wise and caring friends who always offered empathy and a cup of tea when I most needed it. I was in a mountain of debt. My career-one that I had worked so hard for years in university-was in shambles before it even had a chance to take its first baby steps into ‘the real world’.
The earth beneath my feet was dark and loose, coating my open toes in a film of dust. I can’t remember what I was wearing but I’m pretty sure I had walked out with a huge, red Maasai blanket wrapped around my shoulders. My face, buried deep into my dusty palms, was wet with tears.
“Tiga kurera, mama” I heard a gentle voice implore over my hunched back.
I looked up and rested my blood-shot eyes on a shriveled old lady dressed in a dirt-caked dress and tattered shoes. She was bent over from the enormous load of wood that she was carrying on her back, presumably freshly cut from the forest nearby.
“Do not cry, my dear” she repeated gently in the native KiMeru language, “Whatever you are going through right now, you will overcome. You will be fine.”
Her mouth curled upward to reveal a toothless smile and her eyes, twinkling with kindness, crinkled up. I smiled back and took a deep breathe. I wiped my tears and she looked at me deeply, as if to say that she understood. Almost instantly, I felt calmer and more hopeful; as if a ray of sunlight had suddenly escaped past a mass of dark, grey clouds. Then she turned around and walked off.
I got up and stared at the old lady hunched over that heavy load on her back, her figure getting smaller and smaller as she made her way up the dusty road.
Years later, I am fine. In fact, I am the happiest I have been all my life. Yet, I wonder what happened to that old lady: Is she still alive? What is her story? Did she ever wonder about my story?
I will always be grateful for that moment: the gift of unquestioning grace during one of my darkest days; a reaffirmation of hope from a random stranger, who no doubt, had a much more difficult life than mine. Whenever I remember to, I ask God to bless her wherever she may be.
1. This week’s episode of Modern Love, one of my favorite podcasts, is one of the best that I have listened to from the series. “A Dose of Empathy from My Syrian Doctor” is the story of Randi, a woman with incurable motor neurone disease, and her Syrian doctor. Years after Randi’s medical diagnosis, the disease hasn’t progressed, yet she constantly contemplates her death. This thought scares her but she finds steady comfort in her doctor who constantly reassures her “You are fine.” When three Muslim students are killed in North Carolina and a Muslim couple opens fire in San Bernadino, California, her doctor worries. Being Muslim, it’s becoming increasingly unsafe for him and his family. The doctor worries about his family left in war-torn Syria. Yet with the face of danger looming over his life, he is the epitome of hope. Randi is grateful:
“But if had taught me anything, it was that comfort resides in the rituals of care. The steady application of optimism, the shivering light of faith, and the fact that I was still ok.”
2. This magnificent tree in my neighborhood. The web of branches looks like it holds so much wisdom.
3. I found a new Youtube channel that I love. Lavendaire is a lifestyle channel hosted by the charming Aileen Xu. Aileen obviously puts a lot of effort into her videos: they are aesthetically pleasing and packed with valuable information. It helps too that her voice is so soothing. I often find myself relaxing into sleep with her speaking in the background (free therapy for stressed-out moments!) Check it out and let me know what you think.
I give gratitude to God, my Creator and Sustainer; He who has seen me through my worst and continues to inspire me to do and be my best. I know that this life is nothing but a swinging pendulum of trials and amusement, and that true peace comes from surrendering to a force much greater than myself.
I give gratitude for a restful night; for warm covers, for my family (some who are right next to me, some who are far way).
I give gratitude to love; for the opportunity to love and for the privilege of being loved.
I give gratitude to my beating heart, my curious mind, and my working body.
I give gratitude to YOU. Thank you for taking the time to read my little ramblings, and for encouraging me to continue writing through your comments and ‘likes’.
I realize that this moment-my fingers on the keyboard, my eyes on the screen, the ticking of the clock nearby, the honking of horns outside, MY STEADY BREATHING-this exact moment is nothing short of a miracle.
What are you grateful for today?