Cultures need not be competitive

Some years ago, childless couples in Australia were adopting babies from overseas. An Aussie woman opposed this practice. As she explained to the newspaper which published her letter, foreign babies bring ‘foreign cultures.’ The reality, of course, is that any foreign culture brought in would be in the baby’s nappy.

Culture refers to the ways humans behave consistently, traditionally; and the underlying values. I was brought up in a family and tribe of Hindus. Hence beef was not on the menu. We did not eat pork, although it was the main meat for our Chinese neighbours. We saw pork as hygienically unclean. Pork was not avoided because of religious beliefs, as with the Jewish faith and Islam.

During the racist White Australia era, Anglo-Australians complained about the odour of garlic, ginger, and curry spices used by Asian students in shared kitchens. The huge influx of Europeans soon stopped that. Young Aussies who had travelled overseas also took to Asian and European foods.

In the 1960s, I observed 2 young white Aussie girls buying from a food store owned by an Englishman the ingredients to be combined into curry powder. They knew exactly what they wanted. On the other hand, I bought a packet of imported curry powder. I had no idea of its ingredients. My mother had never told me; indeed, I had not been allowed into the kitchen.

Cuisine and clothing, as cultural markers, cross ethnic boundaries easily, in time. Prayer and associated religious rituals, while variable, are motivated by identical objectives – to seek succour from, and to express thanks to, God. Diversity in religious belief is not a barrier to close inter-cultural relations, as I have observed. Doctrine-bound priests may not agree.

In terms of day-to-day living, what differences in behaviour do we all display – wherever we are on the globe – which pose barriers to mutual tolerance inter-culturally?
British Malaya, with its ethno-tribal diversity during my development, was a multicultural nation-in-the-making. There was mutual tolerance, in spite of an original lack of a shared language. We lived our lives as guided by our respective cultures and, in time, through habituation, education, and some social interaction, became one people. Only politics can be a threat to social cohesion.

My own extended family includes Chinese, Malay, Indian, English, Burmese, Italian, and Anglo-Australian genes. We are the lamp-lighters to a new world based on a shared humanity, with any historical cultural tensions devoid of consequence.

 

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Babies and their souls

In the sixth century A.D. the leaders of the Christian church reportedly decided to reject the existence of the human soul before birth. This decision cleverly got rid of reincarnation. This was in spite of the prevalence of beliefs (in some form or other) in many (if not most) cultures of the continuity of the human soul – such beliefs going back thousands of years.

So, on a white board, the Christian church wrote in clear black letters the rules its acolytes and other followers were to abide by. Where reincarnation implicitly permits the individual to decide his present life and thereby influence his future life, the church would now seek to control his life. This control was reinforced by a Good Book, the injunctions therein being binding in conscience.

On the other hand, the greatest exponent of reincarnation, Hinduism, claimed through their Vedas, a history going back about 7,000 years. They wrote on a black board (darkened by the dust of time) with white letters about correct conduct. Lacking a comparable Good Book, they relied on oral injunctions (later written as an epic which contained sound advice in story form). This religion is not based on inherited authority and assumed control.

Reincarnation offers freedom. You make your own bed, and lie on it (so to speak). Your deeds in each life influence your next life (remember the law of cause and effect) together with all the other contributory influences. Any accumulated learning would be registered in one’s soul as it traverses from Earthly life to Earthly life.

And if the soul is more than just a register, could it impact upon my thoughts and actions in each life? Would it not be in its own interests that I behave correctly in relation to my Creator and my fellow co-created humans? Is not the objective of reincarnation to have each soul purified morally (polished) before returning to the Source?

Of course, I (the material human) am free to ignore any guidance from my soul (the durable ‘me’). That is, I can exercise my free will. I am also free to ignore any emanations from the essence of the Creator said to be within each human being (in a walnut-sized space within the heart). After all, I did (apparently) ignore messages from my Spirit Guide; until I was pulled up by my ‘casual’ clairvoyant.

I wonder now whether new-born babies, each with an ongoing soul, can be guided by, or respond to, their respective souls. Or, does the receiving mechanism needed (a developed brain and its associated mind) have to mature – taking about 3 years to do so? Effective reception will surely require an adequate capacity for awareness or sensitivity.

I am indeed speculating that a new-born baby, necessarily without any physical or mental ailments, or past-life limitations, or a scheduled truncated personal destiny path, may dance to a beat transmitted by its own soul. That is, could I assume that my soul is not a passive passenger within me?

If I could do so, in what manner could my soul influence me as I paddle, as best I can, on my personal river of destiny, as it meshes in with that vast network of destinies reflecting life on Earth? What a fascinating conundrum!

The trauma of birth and its aftermath

Does any human being ever remember the stress of birth? During my boyhood, whenever I had a severe headache, believed to have been caused by glare, I would feel a strong pressure on both temples. Although I never spoke of this experience, I suspected that somehow I was recalling my passage through a birth canal. I soon grew out of those discomforting episodes.

What a terrible shock it must be for a baby to be pushed out of its comfort zone into the terrible glare of light, and the horrifying sounds of voices, and then being handled. Only after being swaddled and held against the mother could the baby retrieve the mother’s comforting heartbeat and soothing voice. In modern times, the baby is then swathed and placed amongst other babies, some of whom would be giving voice to their discomfort, their need to be held, and (possibly) a terrible hunger.

The world must be a horrible place to enter, and in such a terrifying manner. How long does it take a baby to become adjusted to the new surroundings? How aware is the baby, broadly, of the pattern of movement of the surrounding space? Is it their frequent and extended sleep which enables the baby to adjust to the new environment, but subconsciously?

Does the soul of the baby have a role to play in this early phase of Earthly existence? Would there be any past-life memories (however vague and fleeting) awaiting exposure? Could a baby display any ongoing anger, possibly because of the manner of its death in its immediate past life?

Would a baby, in the stage of infancy, be aware of any skills or abilities carried forward from the previous life; and which would blossom any time after about age 3? I refer to the high skills displayed by a few little children which do not evidently have a genetic source. Such skills are: playing musical instruments, gymnastic ability, mathematical calculations, and such like, at a level requiring an extended period of development, and displayed after years of Earthly life.

Then, there are those little children who remember accurately their immediate past lives, some even before age 3. The displays of such high skills and reliable memories have been well documented. This is an undeniable facet of our reality.

So, how complex could a baby be? Is the recovery of past skills and memories akin to a flower re-opening (at daybreak)? That is, could any flower of scarce skills be closed down (to a bud) at Earthly death in one life, to be re-opened in the next?

Does such recovery of skills (physical and mental) and memories require, where this is warranted, up to 3 years of development of the infant’s brain? Strangely, most (if not all) adults cannot remember any experience in their lives before about age 3.

I wonder – what are babies and infants doing as they observe and observe – even as they give us great joy, juxtaposed with sleepless nights and some (or much) worry? Indeed, they are a great and wonderful mystery, with each birth a miracle.

Observing little children with joy

Little children are little people. They will grow up to be big people. In transit (as teenagers), some will become ‘know-alls’, based (presumably) on their belief they had suddenly acquired many rights and great understanding of the human condition. Some of those who attend university will claim to have solutions to everything they see wrong in society. Why not indeed?

Little children will progress (as they grow older) from asking “What’s that?” to “How does it work?” to “Why is it so?” They can’t help their enquiring minds. Some will proceed through adulthood enquiring, wondering, speculating; even prognosticating.

The adult-to-be can often be visible as the child progresses from being an observing baby (aren’t they all!) to an enquiring child.. Each such child is, of course, a complex product of Nature (essentially their genetic inheritance) and nurture (their experiences as they grow up). But, what of any memory (much of it concealed, but not completely buried) of a past life? (Professional sceptics may deny anything they do not like, but reality will prevail.) I have intimations of a past life which resonates (possibly) in my soul.

One uniformly-displayed attribute of little children intrigues me. Each child will point with a forefinger at whatever is interesting. Is this an inherited shared characteristic?
Yet, there is so much variability in their presentation of the ubiquitous startle reflex. Some will freeze; others will cry. Is this a variation of the fight-or-flee instinct? This instinct is shared with animals. Fighting or fleeing is not a realistic option for little children when a threat (real or imagined) is experienced. To freeze (to be still and quiet) seems to be the preferred option by both young and old, and both humans and animals. Crying may reflect a hopeless fear.

It has been said that anxiety is the prevailing emotional condition of all motile forms of life; and that such a state reflects the uncertainly of much of existence. Little children do display uncertainty when they expect, or are exposed to, change in their circumstances. They may subconsciously remember the terrible shock of being born.

What interests me is the variability in personality observed in little children. Of course, if often isolated, or lacking in displayed love, or brought up institutionalised (eg. long child-care hours, up to 8 hours per day each day, between age 3 and 5), any child can withdraw emotionally, or become subliminally angry. I write from personal observation here; research evidence confirms.

However, in normal circumstances, there seems to be an innate basal layer of a personality in each child. Seeking to explain an inborn proclivity would be fraught with difficulty. That is because I believe that past-life experiences are cumulative. I do know that a relaxed, co-operative child can house a concealed fighter who, in the Australian lexicon, ‘takes no shit’ from anyone. Another child in the same family can be recalcitrant or even infallible in presentation, while otherwise acculturated. Another member of that family may sail through life, cheerfully indifferent to others. Again, I write from close observation.

By and large, little children are a delight; especially if supported by a loving family. Those I see with their mothers are the most out-going, responding with a smile, or even a wide grin, to anyone who shows a clear interest in them. I have tested that response over many years, benefiting from the reciprocation of a personal interest.

The most interesting people in life are the little people.

Observing babies with joy

Every baby, at birth, is a miracle. Fully formed, ready to go – but not quite! Baby birds sit in their nests and squawk – perhaps only when they sight mum returning with food. These nesters will eventually fly away from their perch. Ground-hugging baby birds, like the plover, will practice flapping their flight-wings while standing on the ground. I once watched with interest a young plover falling onto its back repeatedly while flapping its wings. Eventually, it flew.

Baby animals, immediately after birth, get on to their feet with some effort. When they get their joints in synchrony, they move around, but close to mum. I once saw (on tv) a baby elephant walk over confidently to observe more closely a few birds fossicking on the ground. Soon, however, its mama wandered over and gathered her baby back.

What is fascinating to observe is a young animal make friends with a young one of another species. There are so many such examples. A giraffe and a sheep do, however, seem a strange friendship. I once saw (on tv) 3 different young animals moving together as companions. I also saw (on the internet) 3 cheetahs approached by a tiny baby deer while they were resting. It then nuzzled up to one of the big cats. Eventually, the cheetahs got up and walked away!

I have always felt, perhaps quite unfairly, that animals are better ‘people’ than human beings. Surely, it is only hunger which leads carnivores to attack other animals. Since hunger may be the prevailing condition, carnivores may create an incorrect impression as perennial hunters. Apart from some power-seeking or mischief-making, is co-operation not the modus operandi for the rest of the animal kingdom?

Human babies seem to be the only exception in the kingdom of fauna as needing a lot of time to become motile. They do remain on their backs for a long time. What are they thinking as they observe all? When placed on their bellies, after a few weeks they will lift their head to check out their surroundings. This seems to be the first action intimating purpose.

A little later, when lying on their backs, they will suddenly sit up straight but without any use of their limbs. We adults can’t do that, unless we have developed our core abdominal muscles through exercise. How do babies suddenly display muscle strength?

When my baby daughter was only a few weeks old, I sat her up with cushions on 3 sides, next to a window, in order to take photos of her. She was calm while listening to me. Then, in walked my wife, whose voice and words conveyed so much love. The baby became very excited, and tried to move towards her mother, with such joy on her face.

It was an incredible experience – especially for a product of a ‘stiff upper lip’ Asian culture. In that culture, after a babyhood of being cuddled and spoilt, there was thereafter neither words nor touch to demonstrate the close family bond. The compensation is that the extended family is always there, and could be relied upon.

Through that early bonding, each of our babies grew up into adulthood with confidence; so I believe.

Observing bird-life in wonderment (2)

A number of plovers occupy the ground opposite my home. They are garbed in the manner of the scholars of the Middle Ages of Europe; what looks like a brownish overcoat gives them the appearance of dignity as they walk. They do dart here and there each morning though, feasting on the insects which seem to be active then.

I do wonder: are insects only intended to be fodder for birds? What else are they good for? But then, the same question could be asked about crocodiles and alligators.

Digressing, I recall that, in my boyhood, my family would holiday at a place named Port Dickson on the west coast of British Malaya. We bathed standing up (we did not, could not, swim) in the mud-tainted water off the Straits of Malacca. For our safety, a cage of solid timber poles protected us from attack by crocodiles. With all the navies passing through the Straits today, the risk of being chemically poisoned should be high for anyone wishing to cool off there from the heat.

In September, each female plover will produce 4 eggs. When hatched, the tiny chicks will forage for themselves! The mothers are fiercely protective. Anyone walking or cycling too close runs the risk of an ear being sliced by a cutting spur at the end of each plover’s wing. Their swooping, as they call a warning to their chicks, can be threatening to intruders.

In the first few weeks, the chicks will forage near their mother. When she sits and spread her wings, at least two of the chicks will sit under her wings, while the other(s) forage nearby. Soon, the tiny chicks will chase insects here and there. They will wander on to the road, with the mother making frantic protective calls when she sees a potential threat.

Currently, there are more than 4 cats living very close by. I doubt if any of the chicks will survive the local dogs and cats. Why do people bring cats into bird-land?

I have noticed 2 interesting behaviours by the plovers. When a strange bird flies over them, a mother and her chicks will duck close to the ground. I wonder if this action, like the foraging, is instinctive. The other behaviour of interest is an adult tapping the ground with a foot, while looking a little ahead. Moving forward, the plover is able to drive out of the ground its target. That is, it behaves like a calculating hunter, as well as a casual chaser.

In spring, magpies are seen to attack cyclists passing by on the road. I have watched a magpie keep pace with a fast-moving helmeted cyclist on the main road to the city centre in Canberra. It did not attack him. Perhaps it was doing what American planes were doing recently flying beyond North Korean waters: signalling a warning!

Then we have the galahs. Strangely, the term galah has pejorative implications when directed at humans. This bird is light grey with pink. A flock will attack our lawns, digging up new shoots. They are not interesting to observe. They are always too busy feeding.

It is the cookaburra which is interesting. Its call demands attention. Two or three calling together is quite exciting. It can sit still on an electrical wire for quite a while; then suddenly swoop to the ground to collect its prey. Its eyesight must be fantastic.

The nearest comparison is the little eagle. It hovers, then suddenly swoops onto its prey. Its eyesight too is impressive.

I find bird behaviour more interesting than the behaviour of humans – except for babies and little children.