This year, my New Year’s “Revelations” are based on some of the witticisms and words of wisdom that my mother and father imparted to me.
When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.
Or so I thought.
They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.
Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.
I now share them with you.
My father used to say:
“If you don’t want to read or learn about what’s going on around the world – in other countries, in other cultures – then, you’re an idiot!”
Those were his exact, emphatic words and they were directed at me. The year was 1974. He was reprimanding me for not showing an interest in an international news story that he was reading out loud to us. Amazingly, I remember that the article was about Russian novelist/historian and Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn being deported from the Soviet Union to Frankfurt (Germany) and stripped of his Soviet Citizenship. Solzhenitsyn had spent 11 years in exile, at a Soviet labor camp for criticizing Stalin. In 1973, he wrote The Gulalg Archipelago (Arkhipelag Gulag) – about the Soviet prison/labor camp system under Stalin. The manuscript, which started to appear in installments in Paris, was seized by the KGB in the Soviet Union.
These were some of the stories that my father tried to engage us with at the breakfast table and in the evenings, after dinner. He would get so frustrated with me when I did not show interest.
But, as the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Ironically, I went on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science and history. I write books that focus on socio-economic issues affecting everyday people, and I tell their stories by placing them in their political, historical and cultural context.
I feel privileged to have had such an intense, intelligent and well-read father. How I wish that he were alive today. Oh, what wonderful, spirited discussions and debates we would have!
I can’t emphasize enough (as he did before me) how important it is for us to learn about (and appreciate) the wonderful diversity and nuances of our world community. We are all inter-connected, to some degree.
With knowledge, we gain understanding.
With understanding, we become enlightened, compassionate human beings.
With compassion, we can help each other and we can effect change – positive change.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
― Augustine of Hippo
Image via Pixabay.com.