She risked her life to stand up for girl’s education in Pakistan. She survived a gun-shot to the head for those beliefs. She is a best-selling author. And now, at only 16 years old, Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
The incredibly courageous teenager gave an exclusive interview to Jon Stewart and The Daily Showon Tuesday night where she talked about her homeland, the rise of the Taliban and why she thinks that education is too important to stop fighting for. Stewart himself even asks if he can adopt her when Malala explains her thought process after finding out the Taliban were threatening her. This is a must watch interview for anyone that has been following Malala, believes in equal education rights, or just needs a few pointers on how to be a better human being. This girl has a lot to teach all of us.
Today as you celebrate this major milestone in your life and commence a new stage of your life journey, I ask you to reflect on the gift of life itself. And life, in essence, is nothing but awareness. Furthermore human life, considered the pinnacle of biological evolution, is not just awareness, but self-awareness. Amongst creatures on this planet, we human beings are not only aware; we have the capacity to be aware that we are aware, to be conscious of our consciousness. In that self-awareness lies our potential and power to direct our own future evolution and the future evolution of civilization.
Biological evolution has been summed up in the phrase of “survival of the fittest,” but with overpopulation and over-consumption of resources, the future belongs to “survival of the wisest”. It is imperative for the future of humanity that wisdom becomes the new criterion for sustainable life on this planet. And wisdom is that knowledge that nurtures life in all its dimensions not only for us but also for the generations that follow us.
Today’s age is frequently referred to as the Information Age. The hallmarks of this age are the gifts of science and technology that have created the miracles of molecular medicine, real-time imaging of cellular function, instant accessibility of global knowledge, and social networks. Yet despite this emerging global brain, paradoxically we are beset with the same scourges of war and terrorism, radical poverty in 50% of the world’s population, irreversible climate change, along with deepening social and economic injustice! Furthermore, humanity suffers from massive malnutrition in which half the world suffers from hunger and the other half from obesity leading to inflammatory disorders, increasing the risk of chronic illnesses including many types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases while the hungry die from compromised immune function and infectious diseases. The information revolution has not led to the wisdom needed to solve our world crisis in health and well-being.
If ever humanity had the power of mass self-extinction on planet earth, it is today. And if it happens it will be because we allowed our emotional and spiritual evolution to be outpaced by the evolution of our science and technology. Nuclear proliferation, biological warfare, eco destruction, the extinction of species and the poisoning of our atmosphere, our rivers and waters and the very food that sustains our life and all life loom before us as imminent threats. But just as in other critical phases of transformation, while there is disaster looming on one hand, there is on the other hand the potential to create a radical reorganization into something much greater than was conceived of before.
Today, I ask you my young friends, you who are the future hope of humanity, you who are the future leaders of the world; today, I ask you what Mahatma Gandhi once asked, “Can you be the change you want to see in the world?”
In fact, there can be no social or world transformation unless there is your own inner transformation. Today, I ask you to face a fundamental truth. Today, I ask you to consider that there is no ‘you’ that is separate from the world. The gift of life, your own self-consciousness is your key to inner transformation and wisdom, and that in turn is how you will transform the world. Today, I ask you to acknowledge that you are the world and that your transformation of consciousness will be the future of the word. This self-transformation is the wisdom for our planet’s survival.
As I enter the autumn of my life and you the springtime of yours, I want to leave you with seven skills in self-awareness that I have learned and that I hope will serve you well no matter what profession you choose, or where your life and destiny take you.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in which I outline the seven skills of self-awareness!
It’s always been hard for me to make friends. It’s difficult for me to jump into conversations with groups of people and my fear of saying something awkward or embarrassing myself prevents me from really connecting.
Recently I’ve found myself involved with a social group I really like hanging out with though. However, my usual fears of not fitting in completely still linger. I always assume that if they ever hang out without me that it means that they actually don’t like me and only invite me to things out of a sense of obligation. I keep going out of my way to try and prove that I’m a worthy part of their group but every time I do it feels awkward and forced.
I’m worried that eventually they will just ditch me entirely. What should I do?
Sincerely, The Awkward Friend
Dear The Awkward Friend,
When I was little my mother’s favorite saying used to be, “You are the only unique you.” She even had painting of it done and hung it in the hallway outside of my bedroom. At the time I would walk by it on a daily basis and roll my eyes – it’s such a mom saying, you know? Anyone who has attended public school has first hand knowledge that being unique actually isn’t that great, it’s an excuse to get picked on. “You are the only unique you” goes right up there with “you are so special” and “they are just jealous” on the list of ridiculous things mothers say to try and make us feel better and we ignore them because clearly they just don’t know what’s going on.
Another annoying “mom” saying is “You’ll understand when you’re older.” And awkward, just like the sayings in the first paragraph, it is just as true. We grow up so badly wanting to be popular, to fit in with a group instead of just being ourselves. Being yourself is really, really hard. It means being vulnerable and honest and open to the world – whereas fitting in means comfort and companionship. It means never having to be alone. It’s only when you get older that you realize fitting in with a fake version of yourself is a much lonelier fate than you think it is. What you need is a group of friends that accept you for you.
It’s possible that you already have that, darling. The fear of losing it is natural because finding people you really click with is difficult (you have to sort through the other fakers!), but I think your head is getting the best of you. Have you ever expressed interest in the things they do without you? Sometimes we think other people are mind-readers when actually most people aren’t psychic. If they knew you were interested, they probably would have asked you to go.
You can also be proactive. I know it’s scary putting yourself out there, but do you invite them to things you like to do? Treat them as you wish to be treated! I feel that your fear of doing something awkward may make you seem closed off, where if you invited them to an event or to do something that you enjoy maybe you’ll feel more comfortable, and they’ll probably like it too! It’s one more thing to bond over. And don’t feel defeated if they aren’t as into it as you are, sometimes friends have differences and that’s totally okay. I promise it doesn’t mean they hate you.
What you need Awkward Friend is to drop the pretense and have a little faith. You are the only unique you and that is a worthy, awesome thing to be. Let them love you for that and then you don’t have to worry about trying so hard.
* * *
Submit your questions, troubles, and predicaments to Cora via editor [at] intent [dot] com or in the comments section below. The Elephant in the Room advice column will be published every Friday – a blend of humor, compassion, and wisdom specially tailored for our Intent audience.
In a surprising display of solidarity with the accused Boston Marathon bomber, a 14-year-old One Direction fangirl recently changed her Tumblr URL to “Free-Jahar” and began advocating for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s release (“Jahar” is the nickname Tsarnaev’s friends call him.) At first glance this may seem unfathomable. So much media attention, the gripping chase, the incriminating photos and other convincing bits of evidence – where’s the doubt in that?
Turns out the Internet has spawned an entire campaign, primarily on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, of thousands of people proclaiming Tsarnaev’s innocence. The rhetoric of the movement argues that there are too many holes and inconsistencies in the evidence to ascertain 19-year-old’s guilt, let alone give him the death penalty. #FreeJahar Tumblrs use images, sarcasm, and claims of conspiracy to make their case. This isn’t the first time Internet fans have rallied behind accused mass killers. The Columbine and Aurora shootings inspired similar contingents of advocates, illustrating the kind of intense, bizarre, and deluded fandom that can spread rapidly through social media.
One twist in the #FreeJahar cause is that the fiercest advocates are largely young and female, and many point to Tsarnaev’s attractiveness as the inspiration for the movement. Combine a fascination for conspiracy theories, a passion of contrary online social movements, and a weakness for good looks, and you have a much misguided cyber community on your hands.
Some questions that this story raises for us:
Are fangirls the new social activists and grassroots organizers?
Does physical attractiveness lead to greater sympathy and more “get out of jail free” passes?
Are we entering an era of the truest free, egalitarian, open-forum democracy we’ve ever known with the growing power of social networks? And if so, is this a change for the better?
There are just 5.763 degrees of separation between you and any other person on earth, and that number is shrinking. The dwindling degrees of separation between you and everyone else on the planet are not only making our interconnectedness more tangible, they’re playing an important role in helping us realize our true power.
The internet, and the many social media platforms available are making it exponentially faster and easier to connect with one another. So easy, in fact, that the time it takes to turn one person’s idea into a full-scale movement is getting quite short. It’s not surprising that the Egyptian government quickly cut the electricity to their citizens during the recent uprising. They knew that the real power for transforming the culture was in the connections between people. Shutting down the internet was a strategic way to try to slow down the movement.
If you’ve got a great idea that you think can help a lot of people, you’re less than 6 connections away from the key person or group that can help you realize your vision. All you’ve got to do is start by looking within your own network of friends, colleagues and acquaintances — your own community — to find out who’s got a connection to someone and off you go.
Buckminster Fuller once said, “Don’t try to make or move anything.” In other words, Don’t try to push an idea, a philosophy, a business or product into the world when there’s already a network of connections that can help it effortlessly expand and grow. The secret to your true power isn’t exerting energy and action while looking “out there” to try to make things happen, it’s looking “within” and seeing the connections that already exist, and then taking conscious action.
Looking “within” means both within your community of people and within the inner-network of your mind and body to discover what’s already there waiting for you. Through this process you’ll begin to realize that community isn’t something that you have to go out and create, it’s something that you wake up to. It was there all along, you just had to discover that there’s nothing “out there”. Your power in every sense, lies within.
Is having no friends just as dangerous as being a lifelong smoker?
According a recent health article on TIME, the mortality difference between smokers and non-smokers is just as large as the mortality difference between people with strong social connections and people with poor social connections. Says the article:
Researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pooled data from 148 studies on health outcomes and social relationships — every research paper on the topic they could find, involving more than 300,000 men and women across the developed world — and found that those with poor social connections had on average 50% higher odds of death in the study’s follow-up period (an average of 7.5 years) than people with more robust social ties.
That boost in longevity is about as large as the mortality difference observed between smokers and non-smokers, the study authors say. And it’s larger than the risk of death associated with many other well-known lifestyle factors, including lack of exercise and obesity. "This is not just a few studies here and there," says Julianne Holt-Lunstad, lead author on the review and an associate professor of psychology at Brigham Young. "I’m hoping there will be recognition from the medical community, the public health community and even the general public about the importance of this."
The take-away is this: strong friendships make for a better life–in mind, body and spirit. When we consider the research back in 2008 which discovered that happiness is extremely contagious up to three degrees of separation in social networks, this discovery is not altogether surprising.
But how mind-blowing to know that poor social connections can have a very tangible detrimental effect to your long-term health, as much as smoking, not exercising and obesity. Your friendships literally are your lifelines.
Many of us already know this on an intuitive level. During difficult times, it is our relationships that help us heal on a mental and physical level–whether it is venting about a nightmare boss to your best friend or crying about the loss of a pet to your loved one. Close friendships give us to space to let go of negative emotions and stressful experiences that may otherwise fester inside ourselves and manifest themselves outwardly in weaker immune systems, higher blood pressure, decreased energy and more.
On the flip side of the coin, close friendships magnify our most positive experiences and emotions–like sharing good news with a friend, experiencing a happy moment with a loved one, or simply enjoying a new restaurant with your gal pals. And as research has showed again and again, increased happiness leads to better health and longevity.
How can we use this new knowledge to improve our own health? For starters, we can start feeling less guilty when we take the time away from work and personal projects to kick it with friends. And we should all make a renewed commitment to keep in touch with old friends and meet new people instead of waiting for those things to happen by themselves
After all, like going to the gym or eating your vegetables, it is for your long-term health.
Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, continue to explode and some people wonder why? Do they matter? What’s all the fuss about, really?
Looking into this world is a bit like looking into a hall of mirrors, with reflections bouncing around all over the place. Sorting out the meaningful from the distorted is a constantly shifting challenge.
There are multiple layers of social networking and the more we understand those layers, the more we will be able to create something meaningful beyond who had what for lunch today.
For a simple definition of social networking, take a look at this 2007 video by Lee LeFever of CommonCraft.
The Net Gen is Key
Social Networking is the provenance of the Net Gen, the rapidly growing numbers of people who have grown up with the internet much like the boomers grew up with television. Call them Net Gen, Generation X, Millennials or anything else you prefer, and you still have the same phenomenon.
According to Don Tapscott in his book, Grown up Digital, 77 percent of the Net Generation would gladly give up television and couldn’t live without the internet. The Net Gen grew up "bathed in bits."
A 2003 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that 70% of 4-6 year olds had used a computer and 68% under two were using screen media for 2+ hours per day. And that was six years ago!
A 2008 study by Educause surveying 24,000 freshmen and seniors at 90 colleges and universities found that laptop ownership had increased from 66% in 2006 to 82% in 2008 while 66% owned internet capable cell phones. The typical student reported spending at least 20 hours a week on the internet and 7% were online more than 40 hours a week. 85% were using social networking sites, with Facebook outstripping MySpace 80% to 48%.
Interestingly, the Educause study also reported that "younger" students were using social networking, text messaging and IM’s more than "older" students. YIKES! Micro generational differences could be developing within a school, between kids separated by just a few years.
Kids today expect educational content and experience to include the web, mobile devices and social media tools. For them, www means Whatever, Whenever, Wherever.
Think about those three W’s and you begin to see why Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites are so powerful, both promising and potentially deflating.
According to CNN, the study “shows that in a social network, happiness spreads among people up to three degrees removed from one another. That means when you feel happy, a friend of a friend of a friend has a slightly higher likelihood of feeling happy too.”
Specifically, “the study found that you are 15 percent more likely to be happy if a direct connection is happy, 10 percent if the friend of a friend is happy, and 6 percent if it’s a friend of a friend of a friend.”
We each have an amazing impact on the people around us, and on the people around them.
As the founder of Intent, and a member of the Intent community, I have experienced joy because of this group of people, because of this social network. I know the power of this community, and the power we have to educate, influence and uplift each other.