Homo Sapiens?

These days I often find out more about news commentary or updates through my Facebook feed than the traditional news sources. These can be mundane commentaries on American Idol or the Eurovision Song Contest through to the highest profile of news events, natural disasters and tragedies. I learned of the MH17 crash on a kind of slow reveal on my Facebook feed on Friday morning, the day taking on a suddenly very different tone to the one expected. First was a reference to MH17 and expressions of disbelief which drove me to scroll through a night’s worth of newsfeed to learn of the tragic loss of an airliner making its way routinely across the globe from Amsterdam towards Kuala Lumpur. A route which I will be travelling in a week’s time, though my departure point will be Bangkok.

I know that the investigations and time will tell us what was behind this, but for the moment I am working on what is known.  That some incredibly sophisticated surface to air missile or some such weapon appears to have been launched at a commercial airliner and resulted in its destruction along with the loss of the almost 300 lives on board.  I had no idea that there was such weaponry in existence which had the capacity to reach, never mind destroy an airliner at cruising altitude. How naive am I?

The day was heavy, thoughts of this unimaginable event uppermost in our minds and conversations. News that many on board were travelling to Melbourne for AIDS 2014, the 20th international AIDS Conference in Melbourne came at some point in the day.  This was getting a bit more personal now, as many of my friends and colleagues work in this field.  And more than the personal connection, the loss of people dedicated and specialist where these are so needed.  Any life lost is unacceptable but to lose brilliant minds unnecessarily is even more difficult to absorb.

I arrived home last evening, and stepped back online to catch up with any news or progress.  And my heart stopped when I read a post from a very dear friend, who I will meet in the UK next month. He had arrived in Melbourne for the conference and was utterly distraught to find out about the crash when he had arrived. His distress was all the more as he had been given two options for his travel to Melbourne.  He had opted not to fly on Malaysian, but on the other flight.  I have no idea what the reason would be, and often our choices (after cost) are based on flight timings, connections and routes.  It is a choice which he will never forget, I am sure.  And I simply cannot get my head round this. That by some possibly arbitrary quirk, some have lived and others not.  This is just so close to home and I am having trouble processing it.

And the part which is really troubling me is this.  We are homo sapiens. We are the race which has been gifted with intellect.  We deliberate and think.  We study and write. We are able to design and invent.  We are capable of abstract thought.  Quite how engineers and scientists are able to create what they do is always beyond me.  I cannot comprehend how planners and architects can create plans for bridges and houses and that they actually work.  How do physicists know that their theories will work when they are all on paper? It is a mystery to me.  They have brilliant minds which work in a way very different to my own.  And homo sapiens has created some pretty amazing stuff.  The car, telephone, computers, incredible communication technology and of course changed our world and lives through mass transportation.  Such as aeroplanes. Amazing indeed.

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But what is it in our race that uses brilliant minds to create things which cause destruction, death, pain and fear?  How is possible that minds of genius can be diverted to such destruction? How can this be possible when we live in a world that is unable to ensure that all have access to clean water, or basic health and education services?

How is this possible in a world where we have been spectacularly unable to find a cure for so many illnesses and diseases?  Lethal illnesses including AIDS and cancer? Are we such a wise race after all?

 

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Keeping your eye on the ball

I am a lonesome soul on the planet these days, being utterly disinterested in Football. Yes, even the World Cup! In fact, I am oddly proud of the fact that I have never been to a live football match and never been able to watch a game the whole way through. It is just not for me. Even hubby has not followed games this time as we have been shocked by the loss of lives, homes and livelihoods in the preparation for both Brazil and Doha tournaments. That is another story though. It is rather helpful to live on the opposite side of the world as the games take place at a time when I am usually asleep. It has meant that World Cup life has hardly featured on my radar in terms of the matches, and that is fine by me. (I might confess to some amusement however, when my Facebook feed displayed rather contrasting sentiments following one of the England matches, but that is another story too)

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But while much of the rest of homo sapiens has been absorbed in the World Cup, I have been trying to keep my eye on the ball figuratively, but not terribly successfully. My guide for the year has to be my three word mantra and more than ever, I have needed my words this year. As I revisit them here, I know I have to get my eye back on the ball and stay true to my intentions and values.

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My first word is dedication. This one is proving tough as it aims to ensure that I dedicate time and energy to the things which matter. Those include time to do those tasks which I love to put off, or those which I cannot summon the energy for in the evenings. They include the tasks and work I need to focus on to make sure I keep moving forward. My writing goals especially feature here and there are no quick scores. I want to see results by the end of the year so must dedicate time and effort to realising these. I am struggling to do so. A number of bouts of ill health, not serious but debilitating, more travel than expected and continued intensity in an environment of great change all combine to drain time and energy. But I must keep my eye on the ball if I want to be anywhere near my year end wishes.

My second word is integrity. This was my core word, at the centre of the mantra and intentionally at the heart of everything I do. This has been such an apt choice and I find that I use it and refer to it very often. Even in small decisions or actions I find it such a useful check. Before I act, I think “is this the right thing?” This works well for me, although it often does throw up challenges of what I guess is self interest. If this is the right thing for me, then can I also be sure it is the right thing more broadly? My eye is on the ball with this one, but the ball is one which spins off in unexpected directions.

My third word is flair. This especially reminds me of the importance of giving time and energy to creativity and to ensure that I try and innovate and create something unique and unexpected. My year has been enormously boosted by the publication of the Dragonfruit Anthology and keeps me moving forward to the Next Big Step in my writing. A book with my name on the front cover! But I am under no illusions. This process has been very gentle. As a contributor, I have been guided through the whole period of development of the book and very much protected for the enormous work that is involved. My eye is on the ball, but I have to keep running as well as watching if I want to keep moving this goal forward.

If I am honest, I know I am off track and am striving to get back onside. While I cannot control the external factors which are causing me to keep moving forward, I am very glad that I have my three words. They have a hard job to do this year and are working hard to make sure that the ball is well in sight.