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Forty-Eight Things I Learnt in 2021

Forty-Eight Things I Learnt in 2021

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“The past is always seen through the tinted glasses of fantasy.”

December 31st is the usual time to write articles that look back at the recent year and reflect on any learnings, worthwhile adventures, or promises made or unmade. However, since I wrote the article Time for Action and Contemplation back in October, my mind has been focused on what the year has meant and what next year may bring. As I have mentioned to many friends over this year, a week is a long time in CovidLand, and I feel this year, for the most part, has closed already. Yet, it still may have a few surprises left. However, it is time to start the process of what it has meant to ourselves and how we may use its events and happenings to advance our lives into the next year and beyond.

Last year, on the 31st, I published Forty-Eight Things I Learnt in 2020. Many of those observations will apply to 2021 as well, as historians tell us history never repeats, but it rhymes. So perhaps those considerations and conclusions will have resonance here again.

“The irrational simply changes its look and its fashions. We may no longer have literal witch hunts, but in the twentieth century, not so very long ago, we witnessed the show trials of Stalin, the McCarthy hearings in the U.S. Senate, and the mass persecutions during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Various cults are continually being generated, including cults of personality and the fetishizing of celebrities. Technology now inspires religious fervor. People have a desperate need to believe in something and they will find it anywhere. Polls have revealed that increasing numbers of people believe in ghosts, spirits, and angels, in the twenty-first century.”

―  Robert Greene, The Laws of Human Nature

So, what have I learnt or observed over the last 12 months that I think are important enough to take note:

  1. It is essential to keep a difference of opinion lower on the scale of importance than friendships and family relationships. I had a dear friend of many years summarise this better than anyone so far — “We have been friends since we were six years old. That is more important to me than anything else. So let us agree to not talk about things that we differ on so strongly that it may affect our friendship. We more than likely will not change either of our minds, but it could destroy 99.9% of the rest of what is important to us.”
  2. Irrational fear drives us to destructive, unthinking, life-changing behaviour.
  3. It takes time, wisdom, empathy, and compassion to see through our emotional masquerades.
  4. A virus can destroy a relationship for some that, in this lifetime, will never recover.
  5. We don’t know ourselves and our friends as much as we think.
  6. Some conservative people are quite rebellious when they put their mind to it.
  7. Not all laws are good laws and those need to be resisted.
  8. A country can lose faith in its foundations.
  9. We can get distraught when our past national heroes are discovered to have feet of clay. They, like us, are imperfect humans who lived in and did their best in their own time on this earth. It may be better to ask the questions — where they good people who did the occasional bad thing, or where the bad people who did the occasional good. They are the hero’s the build the land on which we stand. We must ask the question, as we must ask ourselves, who they would be today if they knew what we know. Our histories are not clean either, yet more than likely, our families hold us in some regard regardless and do not seek to destroy the good that we have done or can still do.
  10. Our national stories are vital because they tell us who we are. We can use them to inspire us, to give us something to live up to, even if they are a somewhat filtered view of the past.
  11. Hundreds and thousands of people have passed through this way before us. So many have chosen to risk it all to defend the ideals and values of the lands, cultures, and nations they were building. Yet, we all too often forget to ask ourselves the question, “what have we done with the lives they laid aside”.
  12. All of us have a dark and nasty side, and all too quickly, we make others of people around us. People who once belonged are no longer valued. This isolating of others permits us to treat them differently.
  13. That fear is an incompetent teacher.
  14. Ambition and crisis beget strange bedfellows.
  15. In our attempt to understand the world around us, we build potent narratives to give meaning and reduce our anxieties. However, we will willingly exclude parts of those events if they don’t contribute to the main story. The story, over time, settles into a belief which we will defend at all costs. The terror of going back to a world of powerful anxieties with no understanding or meaning can cause us to blindly continue our travel down the spiralling vortex, which only has a destructive conclusion.
  16. Sometimes we are afraid of something because we are afraid of something else.
  17. All people want is someone to keep them from what they are afraid to know.
  18. People are not always choosing their suffering.
  19. Some days are just long enough to feel regret, and then we sleep.
  20. It is not always easy to recognise that you have moved from one season of your life to another. Michael Cain, that great English actor and veteran of 130 plus films, tells that story of the day he thought his life was over. Looking in the mirror one morning, he realised that his film career was ending. The face looking back at him was no longer that of a leading man, a love interest, or the star to carry a movie — he was too old. Almost overnight, he was no longer young enough to be acceptable to audiences. Others were now picking up that mantel. The so-called generation gap had appeared — he was no longer relevant. He, without regret, hung up his acting boots. Yet as history will show, it wouldn’t be long before a more extraordinary acting career would be launched, leading to other Oscar nominations and wins. Life always has its twists, turns, and surprises. We must not let foolish decisions blind us to reality.
  21. It doesn’t take long to trash a country’s good name. And in the case of Australia, it will take more than a shrimp on the barbie, or Crocodile Dundee to make that change.
  22. Political power abhors a vacuum. The opportunist will take advantage and will not yield back that power without a fight. We now have a situation where “small”, often insignificant people now have opportunities to exert power over others, which will not be given back lightly.
  23. If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid. — Epictetus
  24. I learnt what it feels like to be a stranger in your own country.
  25. A country like us humans can have a very dark underbelly and shadow.
  26. If we are in the majority, we think our view is the only true and correct view. The longer we go down that path, the stronger our belief becomes entrenched, and we are less likely to be open to new wisdom.
  27. As history shows, it is often changed by far fewer people than we think.
  28. People’s questioning trust in government has now moved in some cases to downright mistrust. But, unfortunately, this mistrust, like a share price, will not come back quickly.
  29. The average person has become much more aware of their political power.
  30. The interest in how we are politically governed has significantly increased.
  31. Once small political power-bases has grown significantly and the major parties, in any country, if they are not scared already, should be.
  32. What was once Mainstream media has become the Legacy Media as reasonable people search out new avenues of material to provide them with reasoned answers to reasonable questions. Legacy Media have relied on more sensational stories to keep audience numbers high, whereas, in reality, they are turning off in droves. The Legacy Media is now more than ever seen as propagandists for governmental agendas.
  33. Many foundational institutions, institutions that cultures have relied on for meaning and critical thinking, have become stagnant and lazy and ripe for decay.
  34. There is a rise of powerful single-issue parties, as mainstream parties refuse to understand the electorates they represent. Single issue parties can set a path for a rocky political feature with unforeseen outcomes, with inexperienced new representatives and the “death” of the incumbents.
  35. Money is going to change.
  36. Cash will be on the comeback.
  37. How willingly we will submit to the surveillance culture — it is difficult to see a way out.
  38. Opportunities for Power & Money reveal true characters.
  39. Democracy’s life is fragile and needs tender nurturing.
  40. The average person may take time to wake up, but when they do — WATCHOUT.
  41. When the rest of the world is crazy, it’s hard to stay sane.
  42. It is much easier to see a problem occurring and its likely outcome than to live through it.
  43. We live in two worlds. The one we actually live in and the one we THINK we live in; sometimes, it is the only way to stay sane.
  44. Courage can be found in the most unlikely places.
  45. Quite simple civil disobedience is now more likely than ever before.
  46. It is often difficult to accept what the eye sees, particularly when the mind is conditioned for a different view of reality.
  47. Anything can happen anywhere — as long as human beings have been around, that has happened and will likely continue. So, we are always vulnerable to our own stupidity as a species. Ask the rest of life on this planet — who would get along quite nicely without us.
  48. Despite everything, the sun still rises, there are twenty-four hours in a day, the seasons come and go, and happiness and meaning are always possible. And the people who love us are more important than ever; with each new sunrise, opportunities abound.

“Right now, you are living off the fruits of millions of people in the past
who have made your life incomparably easier through their struggles
and inventions. You have benefited from an education that embodies
the wisdom of thousands of years of experience. It is so easy to take
this all for granted, to imagine that it all just came about naturally and
that you are entitled to have all of these powers. That is the view of
spoiled children, and you must see any signs of such an attitude within
you as shameful. This world needs constant improvement and renewal.
You are here not merely to gratify your impulses and consume what
others have made, but to make and contribute as well, to serve a higher
― Robert Greene, The Laws of Human Nature

Till Next Time — something to think about and share.


Written By Owen Thomas


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