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Gravas kiel ni diras, aŭ ne diras, kio estas en niaj koroj! “How we say, or don’t say, what is in our hearts is important!” (the “missing” Wednesday post) December 16, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Food, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Music, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Suffering, Tragedy, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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“Feliĉan Zamenhof-tagon!” “Feliĉan Feriojn!” [“Happy Zamenhoff Day!” “Happy Holidays!”]

This is the post for Wednesday, December 15th. You can request an audio recording of the practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.

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“La okulisto skribis post noktmezo.
Kiam la homa gefrataro pacos?
Kia mistera manko, kia lezo
duonblindigas? Kiu ĝin kuracos?
Kaj kion povas fari unuopa
malriĉa homo por homar’ miopa?”


“The ophthalmologist wrote after midnight.
When will the human brotherhood be at peace?
What a mysterious lack, what an injury
half blind? Who will cure it?
And what can be done individually
poor man for myopic humanity?”


– quoted (in Esperanto and English) from the poem “La Okulisto” (“The Ophthalmologist”) in Eroj (Items) by Marjorie Boulton

What does culture mean to you? Specifically, what does your culture mean to you? And, when I speak of “your culture,” do you think of how you identify yourself or how others identify you (even if certain things don’t apply to you)? Do you think of something specific and personal to you or something related to the dominant culture around you? Of course, it could be all of the above – because, let’s be real, most of us live bi-cultural (or multi-cultural) lives. Most of us exist in a place where cultures overlap. We move in and out of corporate and other institutional cultures – including school and religious cultures – as well as the cultures of our people and our nations or states. 

But, again, what do I mean by culture?

Modern dictionaries include the following definitions (for the noun):

  1. the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.
  2. the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.
  3. the cultivation of bacteria, tissue cells, etc. in an artificial medium containing nutrients.
  4. the cultivation of plants.

Noah Webster’s (intentionally American) 1828 dictionary focuses on the word as it’s related to agriculture and physical labor, with the second definition highlighting that it can be “The application of labor or other means to improve good qualities in, or growth; as the culture of the mind; the culture of virtue.” 

So, culture could be work intended to improve what it means to be a good human. Got it. Except…it still doesn’t completely answer the question. It also doesn’t explain why “culture” seems to create so much conflict.

“La okulisto verkis kaj parolis,
tradukis, organizis. Kaj la skvamoj
de kelkaj okulparoj jam forfalis,
la antaŭjuĝoj, timoj kaj malamoj.”


“The ophthalmologist wrote and spoke,
translated, organized. And the scales [of]
some eyes have already fallen off,
the prejudices, fears and hatreds.”



– quoted (in Esperanto and English) from the poem “La Okulisto” (“The Ophthalmologist”) in Eroj (Items) by Marjorie Boulton

When most people think about “culture,” they think about behavior. They think about rituals, traditions, laws, expectations, and belief systems. They think about celebrations and the way people mark milestones. They think about clothes, music, and food. All the things that might seem strange to an outsider (or even an insider who has forgotten, or never learned, the underlying meanings of their customs). Focusing on that sense of strangeness can become a form avidyā (“ignorance”) that leads to suffering.

When we focus on the strangeness of something (or someone) we sometimes miss the things we have in common. When we miss our commonalities, we may all miss out on the opportunity to appreciate what makes us unique. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to share experiences. Shared experiences can become part of our culture and part of our cultural understanding. For instance, when we break bread with people – especially people we view as (culturally) different from us, so we gain some awareness and appreciation of the things we have in common. As David Chang has pointed out in his Netflix series Ugly Delicious, every culture has some kind of dumpling… stir fry… casserole (even if they call it hot dish). People from different cultures may even use similar spices, just in different ways. Or, maybe we just call the spice something different.

Which brings me to one aspect of culture that I left: language (and how we think, based on the language we use). 

Many of the world’s languages share roots. However, those shared roots are not on the mind of the average person when they encounter a language that is foreign to them. If someone doesn’t speak a certain language, they may not take the time to figure out what they can understand based on what they know about their own language. They may not consider that their brain actually has the ability to glean some meaning, based on context, because it’s been cultured (i.e., cultivated). In doing so, they may miss out on the opportunity to make a friend or clear up a misunderstanding.

The following was originally part of a post from December 15, 2020. You can read the original context here.

“Tio, kio malamas vin, ne faru al via ulo. Tio estas la tuta Torao; la resto estas la klarigo. Nun iru studi.”



“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation. Now go and study.”



– quoted from the story of Hillel the Elder “[teaching] the meaning of the whole Torah while standing on one foot,” in Esperanto and in English  

Born December 15, 1859, in a part of the Russian Empire that is now Poland, Dr. L. L. Zamenhof was a Polish-Jewish ophthalmologist and polyglot. He was born into a Lithuanian-Jewish family that spoke Russian and Yiddish, but his father taught German and French – so he learned those languages, as well as Polish, at a young age. Eventually, he would also master German; have a good understanding of Latin, Hebrew, French, and Belarusian; and basic knowledge of Greek, English, Italian, Lithuanian, and Aramaic. At some point, he also studied Volapük, a constructed language created by Johann Martin Schleyer (a German Catholic priest).

The diverse population in his hometown and his love of language exposed Dr. Zamenhof to different cultures and also to the schisms (and wars) that developed between cultures. He imagined what the world would be like without conflict, especially conflict that arose from misunderstandings that he saw were the result of miscommunication. He thought that if people could more easily understand each other they would have a better chance of avoiding and/or resolving conflict. In 1873, while he was still a schoolboy, the future eye doctor started developing Esperanto, a constructed language that he called “Lingvo internacia” (“international language”).

Dr. Zamenhof continued his work even as he studied medicine and began working as a doctor. Eventually, he self-published his work (with a little help from his then future father-in-law) under the pseudonym “Doktoro Esperanto” or Doctor Hopeful. He continued to write and translate grammar books in various languages, including Esperanto, and also to look for solutions to oppression and nationalism. He explored various religions and social movements – he even wrote about humanitarianism or humanism (“homaranismo” in Esperanto), based on the teachings of Hillel the Elder. But, he kept coming back to the concept of language as a unifier.

Promoting the language and the idea behind the language would be Dr. Zamenhof’s legacy – a legacy that lived on through his wife (Klara) and their children. Even though the Zamenhof children, as adults, were killed during the Holocaust, along with millions of others, the language lived on. There are currently at least a thousand native speakers of Esperanto, worldwide, and millions who have some working knowledge of the language.

Ni ne estas tiel naivaj, kiel pensas pri ni kelkaj personoj; ni ne kredas, ke neŭtrala fundamento faros el la homoj anĝelojn; ni scias tre bone, ke la homoj malbonaj ankaŭ poste restos malbonaj; sed ni kredas, ke komunikiĝado kaj konatiĝado sur neŭtrala fundamento forigos almenaŭ la grandan amason de tiuj bestaĵoj kaj krimoj, kiuj estas kaŭzataj ne de malbona volo, sed simple de sinnekonado kaj de devigata sinaltrudado.”


“We are not as naive as some people think of us; we do not believe that a neutral foundation will make men angels; we know very well that bad people will stay bad even later; but we believe that communication and acquaintance based on a neutral basis will remove at least the great mass of those beasts and crimes which are caused not by ill will, but simply by [misunderstandings and forced coercion.]”


– quoted from a speech by Dr. L. L. Zamenhof to the Second World Congress of Esperanto, August 27, 1906


Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

Esperanto music can be found in a lot of different genres, including folk music, rap, reggae, rock, rap, and orchestral music. Wednesday’s playlist features music by David Gaines, an American classical composer and Esperantist. He has served on the advisory board of the Esperantic Studies Foundation; is the Honorary President of the Music Esperanto League; and “won First Prize at the 1995 World Esperanto Association’s Belartaj Konkursoj (competitions in the field of Belles lettres).” His work incorporates Esperanto poetry and the quest for peace.

Eta regaleto (A little treat) on the YouTube playlist.


### pacon / peace ###




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