The Human Spirit

Tomato vendor in the old Crawford Market, Mumbai, India. Photo by Mark Mauchline.

Today, the balancing act that is life, highlighted by poignant examples of the strength, and resilience of the human spirit, is happening on opposite ends of our earth.

The people of North Africa and the Middle East continue to mass, and protest for basic democratic reforms that I take for granted. Beginning with the action of Tunisian fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi setting himself alight in early January, the domino effect of popular protest movements has taken down entrenched regimes in both Tunisia and Egypt, and currently has another multi-decade old despot in Libya hanging from the precipice. All of North Africa from Morocco to Sudan have felt the tremors, and governments from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, all the way to Gulf states like Bahrain, Yemen and Oman are having to deal with the aftershocks fomented by their own people. Today, hundreds of thousands of protesters are reported to be in the streets of Yemen alone.

These people are fighting against worsening economic conditions, corruption and political repression. A half world away, the people of Christchurch New Zealand, beneficiaries of a democratic system designed to protect its people from all of the above, observed two minutes of silence for those killed in a devastating earthquake at 12:51 p.m. local time, exactly one week ago. Jack hammers and rescue efforts ceased for the first time in seven days, traffic came to a halt, residents emptied into the streets, joined together while pondering the ground and the sky, as church bells rang, and for all intents and purposes Christchurch came to a standstill.

The little island nation of New Zealand has always impressed me. “Aotearoa”, the land of the long white cloud, as it is referred to by the Maori indigenous people, continues to punch above its weight class with regards to managing its affairs in a progressive and democratic manner. New Zealand isn’t perfect. But, this isolated island nation with a population less than the Greater Toronto Area, has always managed to keep its domestic house in order, whether it be social programs, indigenous people’s issues, or the environment. New Zealanders’ energy and joie de vivre is not only epitomized in their physical pursuits, because, after all, this is the home of Sir Edmund Hillary, incredible multi-day hikes, ocean paddles, and the out-of-body experience of bungy jumping. But, it is the nation of taking things one step further, of seeing how many physical activities they can string together to quench a constantly increasing thirst for challenge. New Zealand is the birthplace of epic multi-sport adventure races such as the Southern Traverse, and the Speight’s Coast to Coast.

On February 22, 2011, the physical embodiment of  their democracy came crashing down around the 350,000 residents of Christchurch,  leaving hundreds dead and leveling, or severely damaging many of the city centre’s most recognizable buildings, including the iconic Christchurch Cathedral. According to engineers, roughly one-third of all the buildings in central Christchurch will need to be demolished.

I think about my Kiwi friends, former work colleagues, as well as individuals I’ve met in far-flung corners of the world. I think of the Blenheim-based, rudy-hued river guide Peter Bruce, a.k.a. Wild Wally, the young Christchurch couple whom I shared a game of Yahtzee with in the spartan Mountain Refuge Hotel in Sust, Northern Pakistan, and the wandering, hotel-working couple my life-partner Andrea and I met in a wind-swept campground while bicycle touring on the outskirts of Spain’s Cabo de Gata – Nijar Natural Park.

Christchurch will rebuild. I am sure of that. I am also confident that the fight for basic human rights in all parts of the world will succeed. It may not all happen in my lifetime. But, it will succeed because, despite all our failings, our greatest resource and attribute is the thing that authoritarian regimes and natural disasters cannot take away, the strength and resilience of our human spirit.

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104 Responses to The Human Spirit

  1. Jaky Astik says:

    Human rights have a long way to go and yet, we are connected as a society to create changes that appear in our cultures for centuries to come. We are meant to recreate and transform every bit of it.

  2. Fox@n says:

    Very well said great post.

  3. rtcrita says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. The world is alive and something is always happening somewhere. Sometimes, the news gets to be too much, and as my daughter reminds me, “Mom, years ago we would have not known till well after things happened what was going on at the time.” So I try to keep it all in perspective.
    And, then, things happen that you can not tear yourself away from because it’s all just hanging in the air, or standing on the edge of a cliff, or about to take a big dive… And you wonder where it will all lead. It’s a scary and exciting time, all at once. Our human spirit is pretty amazing, for sure.

  4. Chintan Dave says:

    “But, it will succeed because, despite all our failings, our greatest resource and attribute is the thing that authoritarian regimes and natural disasters cannot take away, the strength and resilience of our human spirit.”

    I am totally agree with your thoughts. I am feeling good after reading this. I will surely back for reading further. Keep it up!!

  5. B.C. Young says:

    This is a very enlightening read and very insightful.

  6. Ascentive says:

    Its just that, the human spirit, that keeps us going. Great way of putting the worlds current events into perspective!

  7. johnlmalone says:

    A good post, Mark and a great title for your weblog. very clever. It’s good how you weave personal reminiscences in with your more generalised ponderings. And it’s good how you linked NZ in with the tumbling tyrannies elsewhere

  8. Great post about the recent upheavals around the world. The human spirit will always prevail…

  9. gracierios says:

    Great writing. :)

  10. kalmeida317 says:

    Great Post!! Let’s hope that the human spirit prevails!!!!

  11. Andy says:

    Great read.

  12. kloppenmum says:

    People are resilient and in the end, human spirit (the better bits) do win out – I think. It does take time, and while I’d love to see the people of the world and peace and contented – I’m not certain if I will get to see it either.
    Thanks for this post, from a Kiwi – formerly intrepid traveller and now hormonal (as in, sobbing over news bulletins) Mum.

    • M Mauchline says:

      Thank you for your comments Karyn. I’m sure these are difficult times for all New Zealanders, regardless of which island you call home. Keep hugging your family, and be well.
      Mark

  13. mshgspicer says:

    the section about christchurch is very well written just like the rest of the article but i found the christchurch part very interesting

  14. Pingback: The Human Spirit (via Cyclelogical) « …ITldo//:Writing

  15. oldancestor says:

    Human beings are capable of a great intellectual breakthrough right now, with the brains we already have. We can choose to end tyranny by not participating it. We can choose to end racism by not hating each other for being different. We can choose to tolerate people whose lifestyles are unlike ours.

    Go for it, humans.

  16. Evie Garone says:

    Great post & I must agree nothing can take away the strength & the will of the human spirit … it MUST triumph in the end! Hurray, Thanks for sharing, Cheers!

  17. How very important it is to remind us of human spirit, in a year that so quickly has changed the lives of so many humans. With the two newest Freshly Pressed posts speaking of what is developing in present and past day revolutions, one cannot help but take a moment of silence. A moment to appreciate.
    When watching New Zealanders stand in a moment of silence, on the CBC today, that ever familiar sting of a tear came to my eye. The same sting that happens as I watch other developments around the world, or as I stand on Rememberance Day, and I think of my grandfather and those others that fought by his side.
    Human spirit; thanks for the reminder.

  18. Sometimes, I need articles like this that renew my faith in the forces of good amid the turbulence of the everyday. Your use of examples really highlight the ideals in your writing, which is more optimistic than all the good will in the world that is never acted upon.

    Thank you. This article was lovely and a joy to read.

  19. benedictg says:

    In the most testing times and when you are pushed to the corner the human will emerges ….. in these days these ‘will’ seem to combing themselves together (remember reading Jose Saramago writing about this in his book Baltasar and Blimunda) This combining of ‘human wills’ portends for humanity, a time will come when the weak and the poor together will derive strength from their ‘weakness’ and make the world a better place.
    In a country like India, corruption is intricately woven in the culture, the rich and the mighty wield enormous power and the murmurs must have started.. I have written about it http://wp.me/pal7x-EQ
    Thanks so much for this post

    • M Mauchline says:

      You’re very welcome. Thank you for your insights. I believe weakness is a perception, and can be eliminated through joining together of like-minded individuals. But, poverty, I’m afraid, is all too real, and will take a meeting of divergent minds, as well as the like-minded. We must strive to eliminate it for the good of all mankind, and as you say, to make the world a better place.
      Best regards,
      Mark

  20. nunomoreiras says:

    I agree! I also believe that somewhere in a hopefully-not-so-distant future, the world will find its peace… and the whole of the human race will compreend that individual well-being is common and global well-being.
    There is no cowardly-hidden tyran that can oppose the strenght of a spirit filled with righteousness and love, as there is no night so dark that the comming of the morning sun’s rays will not disperse.

    Love prevails simply because the opposite is the same as nothingness.

    Good post!

  21. Kurt says:

    There is something happening, something big, something exciting, something a little scary. You’ve captured some of it here. It’s a great time to be a live.

  22. papapound says:

    Wow, great insights. I love your weaving in your wanderings. God bless you as you travel. There is so much to see and do out there.

  23. marellanrao says:

    it is very nice and useful to all

  24. As a public school educator, I believe the human spirit is at the heart of our work. If people care about something, they will learn to do it. If they care about others, they will learn to help them. Education should be about fostering goodness. Yours is a great post. Well, well written and very insightful. All the best. John

    • M Mauchline says:

      Thank you John. Good luck and continued success in your important, and much needed work. I dare say your students, whether they recognize it now or not, are quite lucky.
      Mark

  25. sunilknair says:

    Its an human tendency to take things for granted. However if see different parts of world specially the developing nations which are under neo-liberalization, we would be amazed to know the extent of hard work being done and followed

    • iskootao says:

      Hopefully North Americans can take a few pointers on human spirit from situations such as those stated in the post and also use them in their own neo-liberal states.

      Great post, Mark!

    • M Mauchline says:

      Thank you for your thoughts. I have always believed that knowledge is our greatest tool, closely followed by awareness, which begets caring, and empathy.
      Best,

      Mark

  26. teala1 says:

    We are remarkable creatures for sure! Happy endings are not always a guarantee but it is the human spirit that makes our existence truly unique. To us!

  27. avikabir says:

    very well written and photograph goes smoothly with the write up…good job…!!
    I got a photo-blog here too..check it out sometime..
    http://www.avikabir.wordpress.com
    all the best,
    avi

  28. A Regular Teenager says:

    i will not comment about anything else, but the person in the picture projects hope from his eyes

    http://www.regularteenageworld.wordpress.com

  29. Elena says:

    hello , I am an Iranian.The Libyan surely will overcome the dictator who has humbled and insulted them.The moment of success is near.
    visit me at http://www.revelutionsof.wordpress.com

  30. TweeCo says:

    Great writing. I agree. All the people who fight for their right and freedom, they are all heroes.

    The pictures is great too.

  31. Faiyaz Rawoot says:

    very informative.

  32. a post written at the right time. Glad I stumbled upon this. the way you have put things and the depth of it’s meaning has managed to touch me at the right places. keep writing.

  33. dumbified says:

    Very good post, thank you for the good read.

  34. rajneesh says:

    Very well said great post.

  35. Julie says:

    “But, it will succeed because, despite all our failings, our greatest resource and attribute is … the strength and resilience of our human spirit.” Beautifully, poignantly and wisely put. Thank you.

  36. AnastasiaVS says:

    I think the problem lies in our poor ability to communicate and fully understand each other. We might speak the same language, but we are far away from saying we are all on the same page. We are NOT all alike and we never will be. I wonder how long it will take for all of us to accept the difference and learn how to build a safer world together?

    • M Mauchline says:

      All very good points. I too agree that there are many, wide ranging differences in our human family that we cannot ignore. But, I truly believe that the only way to achieve true understanding and acceptance of one another, with a beneficial outcome being a safer world, is to start from a place of commonality, and shared experience. Let’s hope we are closer to that end than we may think.

      A full one year on, thank you,
      Mark

  37. nice thoughts. we should treasure our greatest freedom -freedom to think, to speak and to act for a better world!

  38. invisiblehope says:

    Lovely post! I agree, there is nothing that can triumph over the human spirit. Wonderful read!

    • M Mauchline says:

      Thank you. I get the feeling from reading what you share on the web, that you, more than most of us, myself included, epitomize the spirit and will I was trying to describe. Be well.
      Mark

  39. bandsmoke says:

    Great post – interesting and well written!

  40. inidna says:

    Great post! It shows the vulnerability of the human race but also the irrepressible human spirit. There have been so many big events in this year alone and to think that it’s just the beginning, makes me wonder what is yet to come. Still, I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments: “despite all our failings, our greatest resource and attribute is the thing that authoritarian regimes and natural disasters cannot take away, the strength and resilience of our human spirit.” A truly fantastic read–thank you for enlightening us with your thoughts and experiences :)

  41. whenquiet says:

    Connected energies binding souls never fails!

  42. Great article, I really enjoyed it.

  43. YouNxt says:

    Terrific post. It’s so great to see people standing up for their rights and freedom. It takes so much courage and at times (sadly) human sacrifice. Communism and the struggle to defeat that system are a part of our history. Here are some great photos of the Polish Solidarity movement of the 1980′s as well as the fall of the Berlin Wall. In essence, the demonstrations by the Poles led to the fall of communism in all of Europe: http://bit.ly/dVMiJA
    Hope you enjoy. Power to the people!!!

  44. Currie Rose says:

    Inspiring. Thank you so much for your words. I agree, human rights will succeed! And no one can take away anyone’s dignity or strength of spirit!

    Truly beautiful.

    Have a lovely day,
    Currie

  45. Nicasio says:

    http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/​civilrights/nc1.htm . “They are shooting and killing our young men (yes, women, children, seniors). At age 73, a former human rights activists in the USA– your post stirred me to the core. CORE is also, Congress of Racial Equaltiy. We Shall Overcome, no more police dogs, and before I’d be a slave, I’ll go home to my Lord and be free. Nature is in an up roar– have we have we gone to far in so many wrong directions. Yes! I did live to see a black American in the whitehouse, and maybe I will see a woman in that seat too. For those who fight the good fight of faith– there is a just reward. When we remember we have the same parents, Adam & Eve, it makes us all brothers and sisters (: Believe it or not– what we all need, is what the world needs– “What the world needs now, is love sweet love.” Thanks for stirring up all these old memories– we were so hopeful then… and the struggle lives on. Look up– freedoms coming…

  46. Indeed a great post. I love your conclusion which is mostly positive! I have lived in New Zealand for almost 6 years of my life and I’m a NZ citizen now living in the States. It is indeed sad to see such a disaster to hit the most peaceful nation on earth. Just a couple of months I had visited Christchurch and had pictures near the Cathedral that got affected too. However, I know, kiwis have a great spirit and the city will be rebuild soon…

  47. You’ve put the things into perspective very well here. It really is a challenge to the human spirit, and its times and catastrophes (whether nature-made or man-made) like these when it shines the most!

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed :)

  48. karen trapp says:

    God bless the internet… and thank you for the misty moment.

  49. SherryGreens says:

    “But, it will succeed because, despite all our failings, our greatest resource and attribute is the thing that authoritarian regimes and natural disasters cannot take away, the strength and resilience of our human spirit.”

    What a wonderful tribute to the human spirit. It the human heart’s unlimited capacity to love, to have compassion for our global neighbors, and to hold on desperately to hope no matter the circumstance, that will see us through. I too believe that harmony will come in one day in the Middle East, as people demand better for themselves and for their families. My heart goes out to those in Christchurch as well.

  50. norquiza says:

    What i great way to see things- giving tribute to the boldness and strenght displayed by those who experience such a hard time. May they/we remain strong and hopeful of the freedom and good life they’ve/we’ve been fighting for.

  51. Ann says:

    This article was lovely and a joy to read.

    Ann

  52. lormz says:

    i agree, human spirit will forever live as long as we believe and we have faith not only in ourselves but also in God almighty..

  53. lionellin says:

    Grear and insightful. I just bless that world will be a harmonious community. Can not waiting to read ur another good works here.

  54. Pingback: The Human Spirit (via Cyclelogical) | Lostlifefound

  55. As a hobby poetry writer of twenty years, and one, without a formal education, I find myself studying quality writing of this type. Beside skill, there is an artistic bend in focusing attention toward a main proved theme through a series of mini-stories. Without a doubt, this writing is a great example of such a talent.

  56. micmol says:

    I like the photo you choose to illustrate the post.

  57. Pingback: The Human Spirit (via Cyclelogical) « Roderick’s Journal

  58. musikwala says:

    Great post! And interesting photo of the Indian tomato vendor to go along with it! :)

  59. Roger Sutton says:

    It is really great how resilient humanity really is.

  60. Pingback: The Human Spirit

  61. i will not comment about anything else, but the person in the picture projects hope from his eyes

  62. Candra says:

    this blog should be printed out and put on every train in town

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