"I praise loudly; I blame softly." - Catherine II
I came across this quote recently by Catherine II. I'm not sure where she was queen of as there were a lot of Catherines floating about European courts in Elizabethan times. But I thought it was extremely modern in its sensibilities.
I don't wish to keep banging on about the Christchurch earthquake, but I recently read a poem in The Press written by Jeffrey Paparoa Holman about lessons learnt from the earthquake. And it's true that as human beings, if we don't learn, it seems we stagnate.
The first earthquake adjusted my perspective somewhat, but the second really dealt to our part of the city and so it has subsequently been more illuminating.
FIRST LESSON: Don't sweat the small stuff. We get waylaid by so many trifles in life that we often lose sight of the big picture. I witnessed a guy really spewing anger at a truck driver that accidentally rear-ended him. The damage was minor, the driver contrite and the man's reaction out of all proportion. A woman nearby said, "Oh, please, get over yourself." and I totally agreed.
If we survived, if we were not injured badly, if our loved ones can still hug and kiss us at night and in the morning, give a smile and say, "Thank you, God/Allah/Buddha (substitute your own deity or atheist superhero a la Richard Dawkins here) for letting me live another day and love and marvel at a sunset or a baby's smile. Anything from here on in is a bonus!"
SECOND LESSON: Try to be kinder to everyone in your life.
I realised that sometimes I was overly critical of my wife or my children and so I have set out to follow Catherine's advice and praise them loudly and maybe not blame them at all if I can help it. I even try to cuddle our cat, Simba, more.
Basically, it is a corny old cliche, but you really don't know if today will be your last. A couple of hundred people got up on Tuesday, February 22, 2011 in Christchurch and never dreamed in their wildest dreams that they would be dead before that day was out. I sincerely hope that they kissed their partners and children that morning and thought how blessed they were to have them in their lives. May they all rest in peace.