That which does not kill us ……. (thoughts from Budapest)

Chain Bridge over Danube River

Chain Bridge over Danube River

I’m riding a tour bus across the Danube and I’m thinking of Nietzsche.  He had the reputation of being a depressing godless existentialist where I was raised, and only as an adult have I learned of the many uplifting things that he had  to say.

One of my favorites: That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

I am thinking about this because I can’t see out of the bus all that well, because I am in an aisle seat and my sister has the window.  She loves the window but she would take turns with me if I wanted, but I don’t. Like Lola, my hero of x0, I too was trapped under a canoe a few years ago and was lucky to live through the incident. Lola used the experience to help her grow into a strong telepath  Me, I still find myself uncomfortable being anywhere for very long where I cannot easily get out. After berating myself for being silly and forcing myself to endure mildly uncomfortable situations, I’ve finally just accepted the new me and now I keep plenty of open space between me and the exit. So, no window seats.

I have decided that I love the Hungarians.  I love the wild violin music and the rich food and this hilly city called Buda pushed right up against the Danube and the flatness of Pesht. This happens to me a lot when I travel.  I tend to fall in love with whole cultures and pieces of the earth.

Hungarian war memorial with bullet holes preserved

Hungarian war memorial with bullet holes preserved

I am fascinated  with how these warriors on horseback arrived in Europe the 800’s (that’s right, 800 not 1800). After hundreds of good years, disaster struck. The Mongols passed through, killing most Hungarians and burning their villages to the ground.  Tough times.

It took a couple of hundred years to recover from that, but the Hungarians did. Then the Turks came through, killed and burnt as before, and stayed for a couple of hundred years. The Austrians showed up and kicked out the Turks, but then they milked the Hungarians dry before they pulled them into the losing side of World War I.  After the war, Hungary lost two thirds of its land and half its people as punishment.

A guy named Hitler came along and promised the Hungarians their land back, and they made an unfortunate alliance. Once they learned to know their ally better and tried to end the relationship, Hitler simply invaded and occupied Hungary.  But not to worry, the Soviets showed up and pushed Hitler out. The Hungarians were so happy that they made then statues of thanksgiving. Then, the Soviets imposed their own stern totalitarian regime on the Hungarians for decades, behind a political artifact known as the “iron curtain”.

Today, Hungary is a sliver of its former self, fighting to regain its economic footing and cultural cohesiveness.  Our tour guide quips that  “really we’re just hanging around to see who is going to invade us next.” My science fiction brains is already thinking about an alien invasion story that begins in Hungary. It has promise.

I think that what Nietzshe said is technically true regarding germs. I wish it was true more generally. I think we should all be resilient and not leading lives of fear. Survive and grow stronger. It sounds good and when it happens, it’s great. But the truth is that what doesn’t kill us, sometimes damages us. To deny that fact doesn’t help.

If there is there a message in there for those times when what doesn’t kill leaves marks instead, I think it must be about the need for us all to be far more gentle with each other.  We’re strong  But as people and as societies, we are fragile too. We’d all be far better off if we did less damage to each other to begin with.

If you would like to read other posts from this trip check out “One person’s tourist destination is another person’s home ….. thoughts from Bucahrest “ on my blog for the novel y1.  Also check out  “A lot of pissed-off people ….. thoughts from Belgrade”  on my website for the novel z2.

Playing a kids’ game for world peace

I am in awe of teacher John Hunter.  I just watched him give a talk on TED about his class room game that takes a new twist on  RISK, the famous board game of world conquest. In John Hunter’s classroom, fourth  graders play “The World Peace Game” in which four imaginary nations struggle with war, poverty, climate change, and nuclear proliferation. Students only win by working together to find solutions to issues that many adults think have no solution. The good news is that these kids don’t yet know that the problems “cannot be solved”.

John Hunter's book at

John Hunter’s book at

Hunter has recently written a book about his experiences with his World Peace Game and you can click on the image on the right to read more about it at Compassion, Hunter writes in the book, “is the ultimate point of education and everything else. The game emphasizes compassion.” he says.

He says that the solutions his students devise are always complex and include negotiations, treaties, compromising, and a willingness to not to have the perfect answer. He claims that several classes have found workable solutions to global warming.

“Children don’t bring a lot of baggage to things,” he said in an article on Yahoo News. “They come with a much more openheartedness and open-mindedness to solving problems, and they do it in unusual and amazing ways. It thrills me every time I see it.”

The best news I’ve heard in awhile on the world peace front is that he and his fourth grade class have been invited to come play the game at the Pentagon later this year.

You can check out Hunter’s enjoyable TED talk here.

World Peace Update

Click here to visit theWaging Peace website

Click here to visit the
Waging Peace website

North Korea continues to try to position itself as a serious threat to world peace.  Does it take size and might to seriously disrupt this world?  Or will a minimum amount of destructive power combined with sufficient meanness suffice? Sadly, 911 supplied that answer to us all, and now we collectively hold our breaths while North Korea asks foreign embassies in Pyongyang to consider evacuation.

Meanwhile this past week Egyptian security officials say five people were killed in clashes between Muslims and Christians just outside Cairo, and a Taliban assassination attempt on the governor of Afghanistan’s southern province failed but caused several American and Afghan casualties.

There is some good news. Connecticut passed a new gun law that specifically bans the sale of ammunition clips that hold 10 bullets or more, and the state now requires background checks for private gun sales. Sadly, that momentum failed to carry over to the U.S. congress where, in spite of a majority support for both limiting the sale of automatic weapons and for strengthening background checks, our elected representatives won’t even let the issue come to vote.

Rich Lowry of the National Review took a bit of a victory lap yesterday saying “The president’s push for new gun laws looks, at this juncture, like a complete fizzle.  … The most concrete effect of his advocacy has been … to stoke increased gun purchases on fear that the government wants to ban guns. He set out to lead a great crusade for gun control and ended up the best friend the gun industry ever had.”

Talk about sad.

tankHowever, this past week the U.N. General Assembly voted 154-3 to approve a treaty that regulates the international arms trade and will establish the first international standards for cross border sales of small arms and ammunition, tanks, attack helicopters, armored vehicles, missiles and missile launchers. Yes, missile launchers. The resolution aims to nudge nations towards barring weapons sales to terrorists, criminals and human rights violators.

Let’s hope the predators of the world don’t respond like so many of our own paranoid gun extremists in the United States have. Wouldn’t you just hate to read that the sales of armored vehicles and attack helicopters have spiked worldwide because we are trying to make the world a more peaceful place?