Archive for September, 2010

People should be nicer to each other. I think we all agree, yet we’re not doing a very good job at it.  Read the newspaper and you know that this world can be scary, hostile and brutal. Reading the newspaper and watching the news installs fear in people and fear in general moves people to be defensive, hostile and suspicious. Fear doesn’t motivate people to be kind and caring.

The neighbourhood where I grew up and where I’m staying at the moment has been experiencing an alarming increase in cases of armed robbery, violence and even murder in the past couple of years, and this all just around the corner or a few streets away… I too feel uncomfortable walking home late at night and I’m very suspicious of almost any person I come across (just as they might be suspicious of me…). The general impression in the Netherlands is that our society has become hardened. Being kind is sometimes mistaken for being a wimp; tough is cool, being kind is not. This concern even moved the Dutch government to initiate a campaign titled ‘aardige mensen’ (‘Nice people’) about a year ago urging people to be kinder to each other.

Today I came across a manifest that moved me. The manifest has been initiated by Susan Piver, she’s a writer and Buddhist student. Her writings are inspirational, funny, wise and comforting.

She urges people to commit to being nice to each other. Some quotes from her blog:

‘ To be nice (kind, decent, etc) is predicated on opening your heart and letting the world touch you, without agenda and without judgment–and then responding to humanity with humanity. This takes exceptional courage and intelligence. ‘

‘Kindness can and will and does change the world.’

The manifesto is copied below: 

The NICE Manifesto
Please print (or take a screen shot) and (electronically) sign. Feel free to add more stipulations.

I, ___________________, being of sound(ish) mind and body, do hereby commit to the path of NICE, fully recognizing that NICE could mean any number of things and is not merely (nor will it ever be limited to) exhibiting sweetness. In addition to sweet and depending on circumstance, NICE could require one to be tough, giving, angry, remote, strong, generous, and/or soft.

I know being NICE can change our world into a peaceful one. To demonstrate my commitment, I agree to the following:

1. I recognize that only by being aware in the present moment will I know which kind of NICE to be and so recognize that the path of awareness and the path of NICE are inseparable.

2. I will exhibit extreme good manners, even when no one is watching. Good manners include (but are not limited to) qualities such as friendliness, generosity, patience, discipline, respect, discernment, dressing appropriately, and always, always cleaning up after myself.

3. When encountering those who disagree with me I will continue to view and treat them as human, no matter how barbaric or threatening I may consider their views. This means not wishing they were dead or thinking such things as, “The world would be so awesome were it not for _______ (Sarah Palin, Michael Palin, Islamists, Feitishists, Night fears, Stephen Frears, Darwinians, North Carolinians, Psychiatrists, Physiatrists, Bad drivers, Noisy neighbors, Townies, Junkies, Flunkies, Spelunkers, Circus Buskers, Motherfuckers, People who like Justin Bieber, and so on).

4. I will practice speaking clearly, honestly, and skillfully, which means also knowing when to shut up. When others are speaking, I will not use that time to think of what I will say next, but will instead give myself over to listening completely, fully, and properly.

5. I acknowledge that love is the most important thing in life and vow to give my heart away at the least provocation.

Signed: _______________

Date: _________________


Feel inspired? Read the original post by Susan Piver and sign the manifest at:: http://www.susanpiver.com/wordpress/2010/04/26/nice-manifesto/

Wishing you all a very NICE day!


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On Sunday 29th of August after work (Sunday is a work day in Egypt) two of my colleagues helped me load my luggage and a couple of boxes to be stored in my colleague’s house. I said goodbye to my old apartment and left it to the ants and the rat that had moved in. When I closed the door I realized that I’ve gone through this motion so many times before. By the time I close the door for good, life in a new city, which was scary and quite lonely in the beginning, had become familiar and comfortable. I’ve noticed one other thing too… I usually move in alone but when it is time to pack up and move on again I find these people helping me pack up, carry stuff around and accompanying me to the airport. I had no idea these people existed when I first moved in; these peculiar people with their own stories, worries, humour, ideas, fantasies, and ambitions. Some of these people carrying my stuff around have become dear friends, one or two have been my lovers, and yet others I have never seen or heard from again.

So here I am again back in the Netherlands, feeling terribly cold, wearing woollen sweaters and socks, eating potatoes and speaking this weird language again. The first thing that struck me when I walked out of Amsterdam Central station after landing at Schiphol airport is that the people in Amsterdam are all so damn hip and trendy. These people look like they just walked out of a fashion shoot, even their bicycles are hip! In my worn out clothes and after 2 sleepless nights I felt quite the opposite of hip and trendy. But a warm shower, a glass of champagne, delicious food, a yoga class and the wonderful company of my twin brother and his friend took care of that.

Now I am in the same room again where I spent almost a year sleeping (or rather trying to sleep), doing nothing, thinking (too much), studying and crying after the worst case of heartbreak I’ve ever experienced in my life. Coming back here confronts me again with the sadness and pain of losing a love and all the fantasies and hopes that came with it. But I have found ways to deal with the pain and overwhelming emotions that come with heartbreak. I go running or beat the crap out of my punching bag when I feel angry and frustrated, I meditate when my thoughts start to go wild, I take a shower, cut my nails and dress up nicely when I feel low on self esteem and I write in my diary or on my blog when I need to get things of my chest. I also stroke animals or hug my friends or family when I feel in need of affection and I call my friends for a drink and a chat when I want company.

Sometimes, in order to move on, more radical things are needed. Three months ago, even though I didn’t feel ready for it at all, I booked my ticket to Cairo. I am happy I did so because I gained so much from it; I had my own photo exhibition, I started to learn Arabic, I got an assignment with FAO, and I finally started my PhD research (the reason I had to go to Egypt in the first place). I also found this group of nice guys with whom I’ve been spending quite some time. I got to know these guys through the gallery where I had my exhibition and most of them are artists. With one of them I spent a whole night taking photos in old Cairo after which we had breakfast at 04.00h in the morning. Mostly we just sit in a street cafe somewhere, drinking tea and chatting until early morning. I also met some really nice foreigners and these people make going back to Cairo a pleasure.

Most of all I feel I regained a sense of curiosity and excitement about getting to know new places and new people and although I still have quite a long way to go, this tells me I am getting there….for sure!

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