In this section you can explore the following themes:

Savoir faire

shoe polish kiosk
shoe polish kiosk in Seoul, Korea, advertising for a sharehub (photo: Soon-ok Heijmans)

Savoir faire is a French term denoting the ability to handle different situations in an appropriate and confident manner. In fact, savoir faire is a skill that we can all use very well on this unknown path called life. Even more so now that we find ourselves thrust into an ever changing and highly complex global landscape, where even local issues may directly or indirectly affect us all. Given the pace in which events unfold, what we know today may no longer be valid tomorrow. And the securities we have today may no longer be there tomorrow. So what know-how and mindset do we need to survive and thrive in the 21st century? Check out this section for some refreshing ideas and inspiring stories to turn uncertainty into chance and vulnerability into strength.

Inside out

hospital lab
hospital lab (photo: Marijke de Jong)

In the past few decades, advances in science and technology have made it possible to diagnose diseases earlier and more accurately, while therapies have become more effective and safe. The next big thing in healthcare is personalized medicine that factors in patients’ genes, environments and lifestyles. But with more treatment options becoming available and therapies narrowing down to the molecular level, some doctors argue that a more holistic approach is needed, shifting the focus from treating diseases to improving patients’ wellbeing.

However, as a side effect of treatments becoming more high tech, they are also becoming more expensive, which raises questions about the democracy of access to good health care. Already, health care costs put an enormous burden on national budgets and patients worldwide. And as countries increasingly struggle with the side effects of sedentary lifestyles and rapidly aging populations, governments, drug makers, insurers and health care providers need to make a concerted effort to ensure the affordability and availability of quality health care for all.

A different area that is gaining more interest is the intricate link between body and brain – and (surprise!) the microbes in our gut. As researchers are finding more clues to the why and how, it becomes increasingly clear that how we feel physically affects how we feel mentally – and vice versa. Read along to discover new insights and issues in health care, and what our gut feelings really tell us.

To go and let go

Loss by Adonis
poem Loss by Adonis (photo: Soon-ok Heijmans)

Drop the word ‘death’ and chances are high that conversation drops dead. Unfortunately, this reluctance to face up to what we will all have to go through at some point in time means that we could actually lose out on the invaluable chance to share all of our questions and wishes with our beloved ones and physicians before it is too late. What is it that we need most during our last phase of life? How do we envision our departure: as the end, or as a new beginning? What is it that we would like to leave behind? And how can we cope with the loss of a near and dear one? Join me in my exploration on how to go and let go in peace.

Gathering honey

Winnie the Pooh and friends (illustration: E.H. Shepard)
Winnie the Pooh and friends (illustration: E.H. Shepard)

In the bible it says: “seek and you will find.” But so often it happens that the more we seek, the more elusive that what we were looking for. Being focused on one goal can turn us blind for what happens around us; the little joys in life, the needs of others, and the unexpected opportunities that may knock our door. A single-minded approach carries the risk of complacency about what we think we know well and the way we think things should be. But life can be much more happy and fulfilling if we keep our ears, eyes, minds and hearts wide open. If we allow the things that we had not planned for to happen and learn to see from different perspectives, we may find ourselves gathering honey along the way. Enjoy a selection of little gems that I stumbled upon while looking for something else.

Memories we make

Sankofa (return and get it)
Sankofa (return and get it), West African Adinkra symbols that mean ‘learn from the past’. Credit: Adinkra.org.

To remember is to record – and then edit and fine tune until we get the essence: the story of our life. A story that is not so much about the experiences we have had, but about the meaning that we have given to these experiences – or more specifically, whether we are happy with the life we have lived. Philosophers and writers have long understood that it is this colored perception that gives shape to our reality. But now research also indicates that instead of being hardwired, our brains can keep adapting and form new connections – a process known as neuroplasticity – enabling us to let go of painful memories and instead, focus on the positive feeling of having emerged stronger from past trials and tribulations. A section dedicated to the question of how to make sense of our past, to cope with our present.

Storyboard

Story_of_our_lives-Connie_Sun

The power of a good story is such that it enables us to forget ourselves and – for however short it may be – step out of our own lives. A good story enables us to envision alternative paths, rethink what we value, and engage with people whose experiences we don’t share. A good story can transform lives. This section is a dedication to the power of storytelling, and to the wonderful stories that delight, comfort, disturb and inspire.