Monday, September 15, 2014

BBC Thought for the Day

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At the moment the world seems gripped by conflict in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq and the devastating siege of Gaza.

Perhaps because of the overwhelming nature of these events – I recently found myself thinking about something that is both literally and figuratively miles away…

…Remember, Felix Baumgartner free-falling from space last year?

What I found remarkable about him was his attitude. Despite the seeming madness of his space dive, he claims as he jumped all he could think of was returning home to his family alive.

Family is obviously one of the most vital parts of all our lives.

In Gaza the most heart-breaking thing has been to see families torn apart and grieving due to the violence inflicted on their society.

The sad thing is that on the other side there are no doubt families who think occupation and aggression is necessary to protect their loved ones.

Violence against others is often justified as a proactive step to protecting family and community.

Of course, we all care for our relatives. But the idea of kinship and connection can be twisted, especially by those with power.

By evoking concepts like family and community as core social principles, politicians often allow us to feel good about doing self-centred things like supporting welfare cuts if they do not directly affect us…

…or in the extreme case to justify waging war on others.

Returning to Felix standing outside his diminutive space capsule with the world below, one cannot but be struck by how tiny our planet is in the vastness of space.

As he says: “Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are.”

You would think this realisation would make us as a species want to be closer, to cooperate more and work together.

Yet, perversely, it seems the more we are faced with the expanse of the universe and its diversity, the more we take refuge in our families and communities.

This might in the short term make each of us feel more secure, but paradoxically the more we retreat from those we see as ‘the other’ the more we end up fearing them…and fear is the root of many conflicts.

Safety is ensured – as counter intuitive as it sounds – when we move beyond the boundaries of the small worlds we all inhabit.

Genuine security for those we love can only be achieved when we connect with and know others…and that – even if it does not immediately fix all the world wide conflicts – is a small step we all can take each day.

BBC Radio Ulster
Thought for the Day by Brandon Hamber
26 August 2014