We are in that time of year known as a bridge, a time when the weather hints at what is to come while still giving us a taste of what has been. It occurs four times a year but this time of year, the bridge between summer and fall seems the most… I’m not really sure what to call it. For those that are generally in the path of hurricanes, it can be a time of waiting and praying. For those who have eagerly anticipated the return of American football, it is a time of rejoicing. For those who thrive on holidays, it is the beginning of three heavily celebrated in the United States – Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa.
It is that time of year that spans a period of laziness and summer vacations with the start of many school terms, much like Egypt spans three continents – Europe, Asia, and Africa. Egypt is the world’s only Eur-afra-sian country since it is bordered by the Mediterranean on the north as it shares a northern border with the Gaza strip and Israel, the Gulf of Aqaba to the east, the Red Sea to the south as well as Sudan, and Libya on the west. It was an area that connected the earliest beginnings of man with the spread of mankind, both to the Far East and to Europe and beyond.
Egypt is located in what historians and anthropologists call the cradle of civilization. Its history is as long as any nation and it became one of the world’s first cultural and ethnic entities while at the same time becoming one of the first actual political and geographical countries. At one time or another, Egypt has been ruled and influenced by Greek, Persian, Roman, Arab, Ottoman, and European cultures. Its eighty-nine million residents were some of the first Christians but Islamic conquests during the seventh century made it an Islamic nation.
Many of us only know Egypt from the big and small screen. Movies about the early Christians with the actor Charleston Heston and later music videos by Michael Jackson starring comedian Eddie Murphy and supermodel Iman do little to tell the true story of Egypt. The ancient name for the country is from a word meaning black soil, and is best written as “km.t”. This was to distinguish the land of Egypt from the desert area or red soil. The English version of the country’s name comes from an ancient Greek word “Aigyptos” which dates back to the French “Egypte” and Latin “Aegyptus”. Early Greek tablets show it written as “a-ku-pi-ti-yo” which became the Coptic “gyptios” and the Arabic “qubti”. The official name of Egypt is “Misr” which translates as metropolis, civilization, or country.
Bridging the three continents and the various cultures involved has resulted in a history full of conflict. It has not gotten easier as time has progressed. We must learn to build figurative bridges and join all the cultures of the world if we are to move forward and have a future. Egyptian-American writer Suzy Kassem explains: “It is up to us to keep building bridges to bring the world closer together, and not destroy them to divide us further apart. We can pave new roads towards peace simply by understanding other cultures. This can be achieved through traveling, learning other languages, and interacting with others from outside our borders. Only then will one truly discover how we are more alike than different. Do not measure anybody strictly based on the bad you see in them and ignore all the good.”
This past weekend, a hurricane traveled into the Gulf of Mexico and then crossed the Florida upper peninsula to travel up the Atlantic coastline. On what is generally considered the last weekend for beach activities, those in the affected areas stayed home or in their hotels. There was no last rite of passage for summer, no bridging of summer and fall. Weather forecasts have guaranteed warmer weather will continue and another opportunity for swimming will present itself this coming weekend but many will forego traveling to the beach since it will not be a three day weekend. For them, Hurricane Hermine was a lost opportunity.
Often life gives us chances that somehow seem to fall flat. If we could only tweak the timing or change just one little decision, we might have become something better or greater, something extraordinary. Midway through last week there were six tropical depressions in the Atlantic. While several were named storms, a designation saved only for those of a certain power and magnitude, only Hermine really affected the U.S.A. Two in the Pacific knocked on the shores of Hawaii but they, like the other storms in the Atlantic, did little if any damage.
If you were one of the ones sitting in a hotel room or a worker on a beach losing holiday income because of Hurricane Hermine, then seeing the positive will be difficult. It often is hard to see past our disappointments to find the positive, to bridge one hour of our life to another. A shaman was quoted as saying, “A story is like the wind: it comes from a distant place and we feel it.”
Today you will write the story of you. You may not have control over the setting, the characters, or even the action to a large part, but you do have control over yourself. We make a choice each and every hour whether to act or simply react. Steve Jobs said it best: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”