Learning our lessons

I am really not keen on preaching to people about how they should live their lives. I don’t want to sound like the author of one of those self-help books (that I never read).

But…my next Bloganuary prompt is: What is a life lesson you feel everyone can benefit from learning?

Exactly what is a “life lesson,” for a start? I suppose it all begins with our very youthful naïveté, early on in our lives. One believes that one’s life will be smooth sailing: a glossy pathway stretching ahead that we glide along, just above the ground, picking brilliant flowers from the roadside along the way. I think that, pretty early on, one realizes that “nutten nuh guh so” (I think there’s a song of that name) – in other words, Nothing goes that way, even if you imagine it does. That expression brings you down to earth with a bump, in Jamaica.

Mind you, I am also not a great believer in the “school of hard knocks.” You don’t need to go through hell and back to learn your life lessons and come out the other side, battered, bruised but victorious, having overcome the challenges. Of course, this happens in some people’s lives, but it is not obligatory. And not everyone emerges stronger from such tough experiences.

Virginia Woolf.

The most important thing to me (no matter what life throws at you) is to value yourself. It may sound simple and trite (and now I am sounding like one of those self-help people, I know) but it is not quite as easy to attain as it might seem. In fact, some people live their entire lives without valuing self in any way. I agree with Virginia Woolf, who wrote in her diary:

“I will not be “famous,” “great.” I will go on adventuring, changing, opening my mind and my eyes, refusing to be stamped and stereotyped. The thing is to free one’s self: to let it find its dimensions, not be impeded.”

Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary

For Ms. Woolf, valuing self meant emancipating oneself from mental slavery, in Marcus Garvey’s words. But it works both ways. Another lesson to know and understand is not to reduce someone else’s value of their own self. Another beautiful writer and thinker, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, put it this way:

“I have no right to say or do anything that diminishes a man in his own eyes. What matters is not what I think of him but what he thinks of himself. Hurting a man in his dignity is a crime.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Dignity and honor are both words that are not very fashionable these days. Ensuring that they are present in our human relationships, and in one’s relationship with self too, is one lesson we can learn.

I hope that helps.

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