One of the ironies of being on FaceBook is the action of ‘liking’ something and up pops this: 👍
Did you know the ‘thumbs-up’ gesture originated in Ancient Rome gladiator fights?
The crowd would bay at the Emperor to make the call on whether to spare the downed warrior’s life or allow the fatal blow with some gesturing thumbs down and some thumbs up.
The Emperor would take a visual poll and usually side with the majority of the spectators.
Gladiators fought in close contact with short swords. The coup de grace was a single stab upward under the sternum to deliver a quick and less painful death.
That fatal strike was not administered after the Emperor did a thumbs-down gesture (which today we mistakenly take as a gesture of disapproval)…
But after a thumbs-up gesture.
It meant ‘strike to the death.’ If the gladiator was to be spared, the gesture was thumbs down, which meant lower your sword.
The reason we have it back to front is in part due to a famous painting. Jean-Léon Gérôme’s 1872 painting ‘Pollice Verso’. The ‘thumbs-down’ gestures of the crowd in Gérôme’s popular picture were interpreted by the 19th century public as signs of disapproval.
Actually, though, the artist probably never intended that, as ‘pollice verso’ just means ‘turned thumb.’
So imagine an alien considering a visit to our planet…
She scans the communication systems, finds FaceBook and is horrified to find billions of thumbs-up gestures between people, even between family and friends.
What a blood-thirsty lot we would appear to be as we call out to one another to be killed.
Then again, she might just tune into Fox or CNN or BBC and come to the same conclusion: Through the eyes of the media we would appear a hateful lot. (I don’t see that because I don’t watch TV news or shoot ‘em up movies.)
When I travel, I don’t see people fighting in hotel lobbies or airport lounges. I see life more like the beginning and ending scenes of the film Love Actually starring Hugh Grant. In his voiceover to scenes of people running into each other’s arms, he comments that he doesn’t recall any passengers on the planes involved in 9/11 calling to leave hateful messages — and that, in fact, love is all around.
To make the scenes at the start and end of the movie, the production crew simply set up a camera at Heathrow and filmed real people greeting friends and relatives in the arrivals hall.
Not one hug was staged.
In order to use the footage, they had people with clipboards wandering around asking those filmed to give permission to use it.
A crisis can be a test for whether love outweighs hate. How do people react when things go against them?
From what I’m observing, people are coming together even as they are forced somewhat ironically to keep a distance. People are being kind to each other. I’ve never seen such an outflow of courtesy and consideration.
Of course, there will always be exceptions and you can count on the media to play them over and over and make the minority seem like the majority.
But out here in the real world…
The one I’m taking my walks in, the one I’m grocery shopping in, the one I’m talking across empty space to my neighbors in…
I’ve seen and heard only kind words, offers of help, and uplifting humor.
A book I recommend and use snippets from in the course Transformation is Jill Taylor’s, My Stroke of Insight. As a 37-year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist and an expert on stroke rehabilitation, she experienced the irony of a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain.
The book tells the story of her 8-year self-rehabilitation back to a successful scientist. It provides insight into how the brain works and how we can use that knowledge to choose to change our lives.
For me, it’s really easy to be kind to others when I remember that none of us came into this world with a manual about how to get it right.
We’re ultimately a product of our biology and environment.
Consequently, I choose to be compassionate with others when I consider how much painful emotional baggage we are biologically programmed to carry around. I recognize that mistakes will be made, but this does not mean that I need to either victimize myself or take your actions and mistakes personally.
Your stuff is your stuff, and my stuff is my stuff.
Feeling deep inner peace and sharing kindness is always a choice for either of us. Forgiving others and forgiving myself is always a choice.
Seeing this moment as a perfect moment is always a choice.
Do yourself a favor: Switch off the TV news channels. Stop watching ‘shoot em up’ movies and negative reality TV full of hateful personalities.
Why not even try a strict diet of no news at all for a week and sense just how better you feel at the end of it?
You’ll still know what’s going on because it is nigh on impossible to avoid all news all the time unless you climb a mountain.
Ignore the few selfish people who you chose to annoy you last time you went to the store and deliberately notice the happy people.
Notice the smiles… and start smiling yourself.
Thank the checkout staff who are also putting themselves in harm’s way and the person whose job it is to spray the cart handles.
You can even give them a ‘thumbs-up’… just make sure they don’t have a knife in their hand when you do it.