Acting Means Doing

The purpose of this post is not to chronicle the protests taking place across the United States and, in response, the rest of the world.

The purpose of this post is not an outcry against society or systems. It’s not a tirade against power and authority.

This is a post about love.

I’m rereading Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving, a remarkably rich and very short book on what it means to love in all of its forms. Today I read the following:

The most fundamental kind of love, which underlies all types of love, is brotherly love. By this I means the sense of responsibility, care, respect, knowledge of any other human being, the wish to further his life. . . . If I have developed the capacity for love, then I cannot help loving my brothers. In brotherly love there is the experience of union with all men, of human solidarity, of human at-onement. Brotherly love is based on the experience that we all are one. The differences in talents, intelligence, knowledge are negligible in comparison with the identity of the human core common to all men.

Towards the end of the paragraph, Fromm quotes Simone Weil, whose writing is incredibly vibrant and actually quite apt for this current point in time. In his quotation she writes:

The same words [e.g. a man says to his wife, “I love you”] can be commonplace or extraordinary according to the manner in which they are spoken. And this manner depends on the depth of the region in a man’s being from which they proceed without the will being able to do anything. And by a marvelous agreement they reach the same region in him who hears them. Thus the hearer can discern, if he has any power of discernment, what is the value of the words.

Love is a verb. Verbs are actions. Love that is truly meant on the basis of our humanity and interdependence then requires us to act.

This post is a call to action, a call to doing something beyond what is immediately visible.

Participating in the Women’s March in New York City following the US election of 2016 was an eye-opening moment for me. I watched similar marches around the world. I watched as we were all swept up in solidarity and excitement and a sense that this was our time.

And then I watched as everything continued more or less as usual.

And I asked why. I had raised my voice in an outcry and continued to do so, but with the growing awareness that an outcry is only that. What is needed is action.

Thank you to those standing up for justice. Please do more than stand up. Please act in ways that may not be visible but play into the systems you’re trying to dismantle. If history tells us anything it is that protests are easy to organize, easy to join, and easy to let go. Although perhaps not electrifying, there are far more concrete ways to stand up and actually make the difference you believe in.

There are organizations that need your support to take cases to trial. There are organizations that need your support to provide meals, transportation, shelter, job training, clothing to those who need it. There are organizations that need your support to make laws. There are organizations that need your support to keep the doors to their clinics and offices open so that they can run campaigns to change the balance of power. And on. And on.

Yes, attend a peaceful protest and raise your voice.

And then act on what you say.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park – April 2019

How to Tell When Someone is Smiling

The Covid-19 circuit breaker measures here in Singapore mean that we are unable to interact in person with anyone who is not a member of our household. Going to the grocery store for a little human interaction has been very real.

As I’ve written before, I’ve been really good about starting the day with some physical activity, usually going for a run but otherwise practicing yoga. It has been really important to me to create a transition into the working day. A couple days ago, however, my need for human interaction was greater than my need to feel my body move.

So I made a cup of coffee and called an old friend. I could hear the smile in her voice when she picked up the phone and I know she could hear the same in mine. We caught up while on my side of the world, the sun rose and the day began. My friend’s day was just beginning to wind down. Since moving overseas, I’ve rarely made a phone call to another timezone without first planning to do so. People are always rushing about and it’s more likely I’ll miss them than not.

But not right now. Many people I know are waiting with open arms for human interaction right now.

Let’s keep this part of our new world, shall we?


I had conversation over the phone with my mum not too many days later and we talked about how strange she finds it to interact with people wearing masks. I know that this is very unfamiliar in North America, but I’ve lived in Asia for some time now and masks aren’t all that unusual here. The fact that the stores ran out of masks as everyone began buying them indicates that stores stock masks as a normal product (and they were back in stock as quickly as toilet paper). Reusable masks have always been common among people who ride motorcycles and there were always some food service workers wearing masks. And then there were the people who wore masks just because it’s not a strange thing here.

Mum said that people where she is don’t look at each other and don’t interact. My sister, located in another North American city, has said that people regard one another almost suspiciously. People in Singapore aren’t as overtly friendly as people often are in North America, but I have not had the same experience. People still communicate and some wave to the people they see every day. People are smiling, even if you can’t see it.

I started to think about this when my mum mentioned that she’d smiled at someone in thanks and then realised he couldn’t see it. I know I’ve been doing the same thing (because I was raised in a society where that’s what you do) but I also know I’ve become much more aware of the expressions around people’s eyes and foreheads.

When you can’t see someone’s face, how do you know if they’re smiling?

I thought back to my phone call with my friend. I’m not fond of video calls because I make most of my calls to other time zones when I’m getting ready for work in the morning. A good old fashioned voice call suits me just fine. I have never questioned whether the person on the other end of the line is smiling. Probably like you, I just just know.

When you can’t see someone’s face, you still know when they’re smiling. If you’re face to face, look around their eyes. The corners might crinkle or the cheeks might lift. Eyebrows or foreheads might wrinkle. If you’re on the phone, or can’t see each other, or if a mask has thrown you off completely, just listen. People sound different when they’re smiling.


Covid-19 has meant that we need to adapt in ways that many of us never imagined. It has led me to ask questions about the ways in which humans have evolved and why we behave in the ways that we do.

It has also caused me to look at the world a little differently, a little more carefully, and a little more critically. There is not one way to live in the world, this I have learned, but there are some ways that are more pleasant than others. There are ways in which we can honour our social responsibility while still doing what makes us feel whole. We can look at the world openly or with suspicion, and this attitude affects not only our outlook but also the ways we interact with others.

Wearing a mask might be new or strange, but it’s a whole lot better to be out in the world with one than trapped alone at home without one.

My First Podcast Interview

This was a new one for me! Once upon a time I wrote a brief piece about travelling in Sri Lanka for a blog (I have since lost that piece, unfortunately) but I’ve never been on a podcast before!

Steve and I sat down for half an hour to chat about the Extended Essay, a requirement of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. As my school’s EE coordinator, I’m responsible for managing the students and their supervisors during the year(ish) that they work on this extended research project. If you’re an IB student or teacher or if you’re an interested individual, hopefully you’ll find this useful!

You can listen here. Enjoy!

Photos, travels, musings, and ideas on education by someone trying to make the world a better and more peaceful place