I’m listening to soft jazz, while I read Weekendavisen, a weekly, Danish newspaper (the best), which deep dives on domestic and foreign affairs, liberal arts, natural science and more. I nearly skipped one article, Fear only your own fear (Frygt kun din egen frygt) by Louise Windfeld-Høeberg, but I’m glad I didn’t.
Incredibly well-written with the occasional dry humour, Louise tells us the story of a conversation with Fabien, a Rwandan priest, on a long-haul flight from Nairobi to Amsterdam. Louise, sceptical at the beginning of their conversation, ends up unveiling some of herself while shedding some light on two very important topics: embracing life and taking risks. These themes are potentially stating the obvious to most people, but the same people neglect to live by them. And iteration has never hurt anybody.
Life is only as positive as you make it. Although we all have valleys of life, we should embrace the opportunity to make of it what we can. If you feel your morning sucks, then the rest of the day is an uphill battle. And a large part of the effort is changing the mind, rather than wishing the world around you is different. Fabien, from Louise’s flight conversation, comes from Rwanda. Try to search for Rwanda on Google and see what you find (hint: not all positives), but the first thing Fabien says when he describes his home country is much different:
“Rwanda is the most beautiful and fertile country in the world. It is like paradise. Everything can grow there. Everything. Sweet potatoes, corn, yes, all fruits and vegetables — and, not the least, the most delightful bananas,” he says proudly.
I’m not advertising for obliviousness, but I do advertise for a positive mind and an embracing mind towards the world around us and to life.
And Fabien is extremely persistent in this regard, and maybe hinting towards being a little too pervasive. At the end of their flight, Fabien realises that he does not know why Louise is flying back to Denmark:
“What are doing in Denmark?” Fabien asks.
“I’m actually burying my grandmother,” I say
“How old was she?”
“How fantastic! What an age!”
“I will miss her.”
“You should rather say: ‘Thank you grandmother, for staying with us for so long!’ And be happy for her long life.”
Although it may border to being too pervasive, as mentioned, nevertheless it is often this perspective that is needed in the valleys of our lives. And in any case, Fabien’s freshness and naturalness is really compelling.
Part of embracing life is also to take chances. Louise tells Fabien about the school that her children go to — a school that really puts an extra effort into teaching the children to take chances — or risks. To become risk takers.
“The bravest even get an acknowledgement for their efforts. They are called up at the monthly morning gathering in front of hundreds of students, parents, and teachers, awarded a risk taker diploma, and applauded all the way back to their seats.”
We should also do this in our schools and in our society at large. It seems as if risk-taking is actively discouraged in the way we interact with each other. Being cautious of not becoming reckless, we should actively encourage risk-taking and make people believe. One of my favourite quotes these days is from Disney and illustrates this very well:
If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.
Potentially the word risk is a problem in itself. It sounds negative to begin with. Louise notes this very well in an anecdote that will stay with me for a long time:
“We sit and are quiet together. And then, I remember that in Nyanja, the language that most people talk home in Lusaka and in the Eastern part of Zambia where Fabien was a refugee, is only one, common word for risk and chance – it is mwayi.”
Let taking risks and taking chances be synonymous, equally compelling and actively encouraged.
And so, while writing this, my jazz playlist ended. I resorted to one of my favourite bands these days, Munck//Johnson — if you don’t know them, give them a listen
All quotes are from the article and freely translated by me (except the Disney quote).