The Wisdom of Acceptance

By: Jenni Taylor, Author in Chief

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Wisdom always appears as a woman to me. In this case, she is Victorian, with upswept hair, high collar, and looking somewhat like a character from Anne of Green Gables. She is middle-aged, experienced, and vivacious. We sit down for tea- complete with wicker chairs, large windows, crossed ankles and perfectly formed sugar cubes.

I begin to tell her about my life. Current struggles are first placed in the boundaries of polite language, and then spill out in waves of excuses, reasons, doubts, fears, wonderment, bewilderment, disappointment and an occasional wry laugh. Lady wisdom nods her head, graciously. Acceptance. Everything I am, everything I say, she takes in and with one gentle gesture, sets me at ease. I am accepted. My past is accepted. My doubts about the future are accepted. My current condition, in this moment, in this second of imaginary life sipping tea and sobbing uncontrollably, is accepted.

But, when my heart has been spilled and the weight has lifted from my shoulders, Lady Wisdom leans in and prepares to tell me that while I am accepted, completely accepted, there are things that are unacceptable. My focus on myself instead of others, for one. My self-pity or self-dislike, for another. She speaks gently but in no uncertain terms. In all her wisdom, she helps me draw boundaries. Going back is unacceptable. Wallowing in mediocrity is unacceptable. Not daring to dream is unacceptable.

Is it wisdom talking, or my own guilt? Does guilt have a place in this? When do we get off the comfy couch and say enough is enough?

Lady Wisdom reminds me to start small. A moment of prayer, a moment of thanks, a ten-second interval before airing my grievances to the world. She reminds me to accept my journey, and to not accept the baggage that is begging to come with me.

Solomon says there is a place and time for everything. Acceptance and unacceptance alike. I can see Lady Wisdom nodding her head and placing a bookmark at that passage to use in our next conversation. Until then, I accept her friendship, her love, and her advice for my life.

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Silence is Golden

We are excited to feature a guest post today from Abd Al-Rahman Wally, who is an Engineering student in Egypt. His post invites us all to see the wisdom we can gain by seeking silence in ourselves and our lives.

ما ندمت علي سكوتي يوما و لكن ندمت علي كلامي مرارآ

This is a very common saying here in Egypt, which apparently originated from Roman writer Publilius Syrus’s quote : “I often regret that I have spoken, but never that I have been silent”. Despite its popularity I honestly doubt that anybody actually uses it. Silence has been mistakenly understood as a sign of weakness or ignorance, but I think it’s quite the contrary. Silence has always been a sign of wisdom, and many ancient civilizations have praised silence.

No one, including me, can deny the mysterious aura that surrounds a silent person, but I could not find a trace of this kind of people in modern life, at least around me. I could only find them in novels and history books and when found them there, I was taken by them. I found that these people are often the most respectable and successful. These guys are the ones who come up with the greatest ideas, because silence gives them the time to process things correctly.

So I decided to become more silent. I decided to suspend my eagerness to react immediately towards different situations and instead to wait silently and have patience even in the simplest situations.

When I chose to be silent, I gave myself the opportunity to see life differently, to watch how people act and react with each other during different situations, to notice human interactions.

Now that I am more silent people treat me differently, and I struggle less during conversations. People now tend to ask me about my opinion and invite me to participate. Because after I listened, understood and processed, my opinions now make more sense and carry more weight. When I’m in a group and begin to talk, everybody just stops talking and listens to me, because I’m the silent one, everybody wants to hear from me.

I have also found that when I became silent I actually narrowed the area of mistakes in my communications. As a Muslim, Islam strongly emphasizes the importance of a word, and how people should weigh their words before spilling them. As prophet Mohammed says: “A word can mean the difference between heaven and hell”.

In addition to that, I really started to enjoy life more. In transportation, even with my friends, when I cut the chit-chat and listened to them talking, I discovered more and more about my friends, good things that made me understand them better and more deeply.

I can never forget the one day trip to Fayed, Ismailia. I asked all my friends to just stop chatting for 5 minutes, and just lie there on the grass. Feel the breeze and listen to the whispers of the air running to us across the Suez Canal. 5 minutes passed, another 5, and for 30 minutes we sat there smiling and relaxing.

If you are living in a big noisy city and have ever been to the wild, hiking, camping or whatever, the very first thing that you may have noticed is the silence, the beauteous silence. I find that silence in nature is always connected with beauty, peacefulness and serenity. It is that silence that I try to parallel in my daily life.

For the Love of Elephants

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By: Jenni Taylor

While visiting Thailand, a friend and I signed up for a day tour that seemed to offer it all: history museums, waterfalls, elephants, rafting, and tigers. Can’t get better than that, right?

The museums were informative, the waterfalls were beautiful, and the elephants- well, the elephants were chained, dirty, and beaten. A chain smoking “tour guide” pushed the tourists from the bus into a line to get them on the elephants, take a few circles around while they were directed with hooks, and then shuffle the group off to lunch on time.

We refused.

While standing to the side feeling guilty and unsure of what to do while the rest of the tourists took their pleasure ride, an elephant came right up to the fence and reached out her trunk to me. It was the same feeling you get when a toddler reaches out her little arms to you and you are sure all the love in the world is being directed at you in that moment.

We became friends.elephant 2

When I asked what her name was, another chain smoking worker said they called her “Lady Boy”, and laughed. Lady Boy’s baby and another older “grandpa” elephant soon joined us.

I decided to feed them bananas.

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I’m no elephant expert, but if eyes are windows to the soul, these elephants have spirit. They have life. They are capable of happiness, friendship, and love.

And when grandpa elephant was taken away to be ridden by tourists and smacked with a hook, my new friend turned sadly away and stood by herself.

Her eyes told me they were capable of pain and suffering, too.

Maybe we couldn’t have done much more than we did, refuse to ride and show as much love and care as we could in the few minutes we had. But I can’t get them out of my mind. So, I pray,

May the humans who have lost their kindness rediscover it.
May creatures in pain be given advocates of love.
May we learn to increase our empathy and our loving action,
and may we use the loudness of our voices
to speak out against wrongdoing towards all things, great and small.
May we see the world through the eyes of God and care for it in the same way.

Amen.

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