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post The Art of Silence

December 1st, 2009

Filed under: Life Style — Admassu @ 16:45

A lot of us haven’ t learned to speak out about who we are or what we want. Being still and reserved have traditionally been passed on to us as a virtuous act. As kids, we might still remember, we used to listen to the older men and women while they discuss or argue. We have listened to what they were saying without bringing up our opinion on the discussed matter even though we knew that these people were partially wrong in some points.

“Oh…” they would say admiring our suppressed silence. “….oh, how well mannered is this kid! One never hear him say anything!” That is how most of us grew up: Listening a lot and avoiding arguments and oral confrontations.

How is this behavior affecting our life when we are grown up? Of course, there are also the lucky ones among us who fortunately had liberal parents who allowed them to say what they think. But how about those of us who were not that lucky? Now, many of us are living somewhere away from our traditional and geographical boundaries. Do this traditional attitude influence our life when we are out there dealing with all odds of existence?

The answer (my answer) is definitely a huge “YES!”

I am a good listener. I avoid oral confrontations usually but I fortunately have also developed the habit of arguing when I should. That part of me has taken quite long time to develop but I am happy that it didn’t remain buried. And I want to keep also that listener part of me as a priceless gift of my tradition.

The other day, I was sitting with a group of Ethiopians in a cafe in Frankfurt.¬† In the group was this elderly gentleman whom the others frequently called “General” and he did most of the talking. The old gentleman was wearing a huge shabby jacket which he didn’t bother to take off the whole time. I could see how the German winter was affecting his physical appearance.

I was wondering why the others were calling him General  because, despite his well-mannered complexion, there was nothing about him that showed this highest military grad. But the topic discussed about was very interesting that I decided to ask about this matter later.

The General was reciting many military stories from the time of Haile Selassie. Some of his stories were so grasping that I thought all along that one should write a book or do a film about it. But for this old gentleman seemed this small audience of five to six men to be enough. How I wished to tell him to go out there and shout out his stories to the rest of the world because those were far more better stories than any of the Hollywood blockbusters. But I didn’t dare to interrupt his story and tell him what I was thinking.

The old gentleman whom they all called General has finished telling his stories. He went to his home saying that he was too tired an too old to deal with this cold weather outside. With genuine courtesy, we all stood up bidding him a good night. After he was gone, I asked the others why they were calling him General.

“It is not his nick name…” They said. “…he is a real general. A general who went through all the necessary academical and military procedures and was given the title officially.”

This is not the first time that I met landsmen or women who are living their life abroad in a silent anonymity. Keeping their amazing stories to themselves and looking sometimes for an anonymous opportunity like this one to share their experience to five or six listeners.

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