We can do it

Sometimes we think how will I be remembered and what for? Will my mistakes not my triumphs be what they sing, or will it be my looks not the kind heart I had that is seen forever? Actress Marilyn Monroe is often thought to be a dumb blonde, but in reality was far from it. This is due to the characters she played on film cementing a false image of her as a person. In modern times we live in a world where celebrities are often defined as something to aspire to be. Like actress Angelina Jolie’s humanitarian work, for which has seen her involved in high level political talks on human rights. Furthermore, as today is International Women’s Day she is one that many admire due to this. Equally, those that love animals may cite the work of Jane Goodall as their heroine, or if like me are also into environmental issues Rachel Carson’s name is one we may add.

Yet what about those people we have forgotten or like Marilyn see them for one aspect of their lives and even that is not the whole story. An example is Hedy Lamarr, who like Marilyn was an actress and seen as a beauty queen, but that does the achievements of this Austrian actress a diservice. She helped to develop a ‘secret communication system’ to combat the Nazis, which included a ‘spread spectrum’ that ultimately would galvanise the digital communication boom and forms the the technical backbone that makes mobile phones, fax machines, and other wireless operations of today possible! She also read and observed fish and birds, leading to the design of airplane wings we see today as realise the design from nature was more effective. Alas like many female inventors little of her work was recognised at the time, but has in recent times thankfully.

What this serves to tell us is that no matter what we achieve in our lifetime it may not be seen as groundbreaking, against the odds we can achieve things but may only be seen or read by a small group of people. Equally, there should be no limits to what we can achieve, dream the impossible dream. There will always be others that hate us as believe we have what they desire, or our lives are easier, which is false and those that know us truly know this too. Some crave fame, as seen as the ultimate achievement, but unprepared for the smoke and mirrors that hide beind this poisonous golden chalice. Being a woman is still an obstacle in many parts of the world as seen as weak or feeble, only suitable for bearing and rearing children (making my inability to have them seem like I’m worth less than a flower). But we should be ourselves, do our best, and believe in ourselves.

Fi S. J. Brown

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The Ego Trick

For the last few days I have been reading contemporary philosopher Julian Baggini’s book The Ego Trick, in which he poses the following questions: Are you still the person who lived fifteen, ten or five years ago? Fifteen, ten or five minutes ago? Can you plan for your retirement if the you of thirty years hence is in some sense a different person? What and who is the real you? Does it remain constant over time and place, or is it something much more fragmented and fluid? Is it known to you, or are you as much a mystery to yourself as others are to you? I found the questions ones similar to many I had myself in recent years about myself and changes I felt I had experienced. They also reminded me of early 20th century philosopher Rudolf Steiner’s Stages of life, which I had previously considered in my post on the meaning of life. I decided to look back on my life and the changes I felt had happened but had they really happened, was I now the swan not the ugly duckling?

I thought back 20-25 years ago during my teenage years, as I hid in my high school library from the bullies surrounded by books for company with one thing that always stuck out – the Greenpeace leaflets that sat on the librarian’s desk. I knew of Greenpeace as watched the evening news nightly, preferring it over the Australian soap opera Neighbours. Combined with my occasional discussions with my great uncle, winning prizes for my writing against CFCs, and reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, my interest in the environment and natural world was very much the teenage me. I also got into trouble, not with my teachers but my mother, for drawing peace symbols against war and nuclear weapons to anti-animal testing doodles on my chemistry to religious education notebooks; issues which even now I feel strongly about and would draw them again. Equally, I’d spend my evenings listening to or practising playing music for bands and orchestras, as well as enjoying writing when I could, and questioning to myself the world around me. Therefore, on some level I am still the same as my teenage self with her passions and interests, but have I changed at all?

However, despite my passions and interests noted above, my school and family pushed me away from three of the subjects I excelled at and loved the most – music, Latin and French, and towards chemistry with biology. I found the sciences interesting to an extent but not the laboratory time, it didn’t quite grab me the same and often went wrong! One time doing an experiment connected to a computer, the whole thing had to be abandoned as the computer broke down and was unable to be retrieved…I joked to my teacher it was a sign I shouldn’t be studying chemistry. Yet if you look at my university qualifications you will see my undergraduate degree was a mix of both biology and chemistry, my first masters is in environmental analytical chemistry, second masters is in archaeology and PhD is in geography…not bad for the girl they bullied and called stupid! I tried to convince myself every year that I enjoyed being in the laboratory but quite simply I was fooling myself, I considered giving up during my second year undergraduate as felt so unme, but not one to give up I kept going. My current eyes see it as a form of emotional self harm, which is why I will probably never work in a laboratory ever again in this life time (or I hope not to)!

The last few years since my PhD I have been considering where my life is going and what I want out of it beyond my three desires (a place to call home, a dog for company and to be happy). Realising that my love of the environment and the natural world is still as big as my teenage self, so often photograph and/or write about it here, equally my love of writing has come to become something beyond what I could ever have imagined. Yet, I do not feel the same woman who looked down the microscope counting proxies of charcoal, seeds, bryzoans, ostracods and daphnia ten years ago; she would draw and daydream what she saw, trying to make the data visual from her mind to the paper and not in numerical form. I feel a sense of freedom now that I am finally being true to myself – the woman I have learnt to love, appreciate and respect, is a quirky creative not a mad scientist. I also know how often I am the person people turn to for help as have an unjudgemental ear, caring shoulder and arms happy to hug, leading others and myself to question if I should not be a counsellor or perhaps speech and language therapy due to my voluntary work with adults with aphasia. I am currently putting the foundations down to try go that path as feels like I’m being deafened by the screams!

Therefore, I do and do not agree on being the same person as I was before. Part of me is the same that has always been there, deep thinking to gentle woman and lover of the natural world. However, there are parts of me that I was either to scared to share or did not know they were me. I have also learnt the importance of a select group of friends that love, trust, respect and appreciate you as you do them. A few years ago I hated myself and found the darkness blinding but now see the light of the world’s multisensory being as though a child experiencing it all for the first time. I also feel it is our experiences in life that change us, for good and bad, so we are in a constant change like the constantly changing world, which we are trying to adapt to. This all brings me back to being aware of the present moment, so we perhaps should remember to try not to be who were ten years ago but use those ten years of life experience to be who we are now. Equally, we can make foundations today for where we would like to be in ten years time but a full on plan is impossible as tomorrow is promised to none of us.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Be the change

Be the change you want to see in the world” is perhaps one of the greatest faux quotes of them all, yes you heard me faux, there is no reliable documentary evidence for Gandhi ever saying it at all. The closest verifiable remark we have from him is this:
If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

So what does it actually mean? To me it means that if we do not agree with the way something is, and feel the need to do something about it, do not sit back and wait for another to do so…if we’re that passionate about it, that should be our driver for change. Despite the celebrity culture now enriched in our world, it is doing it because it is what we want to change it. The money that may come with fame can act as an incentive for many to act on making a change rather for the change.

Not everyone will gain fame and/or see change in their lifetime, Ghandi, Henry Salt, Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall or Emmeline Pankhurst did/have and why we thank them now. Think of the actions of others such as Thich Quang Duc who set himself on fire in protest in Vietnam or “Tank Man” (Wang Weilin?) at the protest at Tiananmen Square. Even now I know people from Kenya, Cameroon, DR Congo, India and Pakistan working for change as it’s what they believe in.

I am passionate about humanity’s connection with the environment, to think individually not as a herd of sheep, and losing the stigma on mental health. Using my actions, words and art to speak for me and inspire others that is what I love. To that end, I now use my writing and photography as my way to be the change in the world I want to see. Do I want to be the next JK Rowling? No I do not, I only want to be remembered by friends as someone who tried and gave their all.

© Fi S. J. Brown