July 28, 2013

Chew before you swallow, she said.


Young Artur could not have been much older than 10 when he was first sent to boarding school. This meant moving from Graciosa to Terceira, in the Azores Islands, Portugal.

Today, at almost 90, Artur or Cunha de Oliveira – he prefers his surname – is a renowned figure of the Azores. In him you'll find demanding wisdom and generous compassion. He is a good friend and a mentor.

Standing on the pier that day before he boarded, his mother gave him a lifelong piece of advice:

“Son, remember to chew before you swallow”, she said.
“Mom, I'm not a baby. I know better than to swallow food without chewing”, he replied.
“Oh, I don't mean the food, my dear!” And with a kiss and a smile, she bid him goodbye.

She was referring to the many things he would be taught and would learn. This principle has guided him on a journey that has been unique and fascinating (for instance, service as a Member of the European Parliament).

Sometimes, what is most evident goes shockingly unnoticed.

His mom's advice is one of those cases – commonsense usually is. I often wonder how many things I accept to be true without pausing to ask: Is this really so?

Believing everything you think is not a freeway to freedom.

Trusting everything we are taught and told is no diploma of wisdom. Accepting things at face value proves to be a mask that conceals disillusion. Instead, to nurture the routine of pausing to test the strength of our truths is a practice of growth.

One question you might want to keep in your back pocket for unexpected situations is: "Why not?" For, now and then life might kick us in the buttocks. And with a righteous claim in our voices, we'll jump up to object: “But why? Why me?!”

I’m quite sure there won’t be an answer. This might be life's way of asking “Why not? Or have you swallowed something without chewing?”


Who do you know who'd enjoy Artur's mom’s advice? Share it!