This is a Spanish word and I’ve always found it to be one of those words where there isn’t a direct translation. I found one recently that likened it to courage, desire, fortitude; internal motivation inspiring a person to never quit. (Actually it’s just one of those words that I like to say.) We all need ganas. Did you ever watch the movie Stand and Deliver where the teacher Jaime Escalante talks about ganas? Something for us all to keep in mind.
Remember when I did the post on the 2012 World Series and I mentioned that song from the musical Damn Yankees, “You gotta have heart”? We got to see the musical when the comedian Jerry Lewis played Mr. Applegate. As I said before, I don’t think there’s a simple translation of “heart” and likewise there is not a word that easily translates “ganas”. It is one of the things that is needed in the stroke renewal process. It’s a balance of taking advantage of the things that go right even when lots of things go wrong. I think one of the great lines from that song is “We’ve got hope. We don’t sit around and mope.”
I love musicals. Now I’m realistic about things and I don’t see people breaking out in song as a part of life but I’ll share a real life experience I had about 15 years ago. I was working for a software company and a company in another country bought the product. I was sent to that country to help implement the software and to be part of the project team. I attended the team meetings and at one point there was a woman on the team who was trying to make a point about something. She was having a difficult time conveying her point and she asked us if she could do something a bit unconventional to get her point across. She sang the perspective! (Perfectly I might add.) That whole image has always stayed with me. She put other skills to use to make her point. That’s the part about ganas that makes sense to me. With that experience I saw a new definition of hope. Now years later, I think about that experience and apply it to life today after a stroke. I don’t recall if she used different words or if it was just her singing. (I’ll add the part about all the rest of us on the team got an opportunity to use different skills to “hear” the point!)
I’m reading Cursed Child — the latest Harry Potter book. (I’m not that thrilled with the plot, but that’s another story. I am a huge Harry Potter/J.K. Rowling fan so I’m sticking with it. It’s not the writing by the way.) It’s actually the script of a play that is being put on in London. Matt is a board trustee of a theater in San Francisco, so I’ve had some experience reading plays. We get copies of each script for the plays that they put on. It is a different experience than reading a book. It requires additional visualization from reading a novel. When I read a story in a book there are many aspects I can ignore or overlook. They just aren’t important to me. When I read a play, I have to visualize things a little different. I include this concept here because I believe we have all the tools we need, but we need to use them in a different way.
Sometime ago I mentioned a non-profit organization called Rebuilding Together Peninsula. Matt continues to be active with them and Oracle is one of the local corporate sponsors. They are a national service but there are many regional chapters. They transform homes, schools and community facilities. I love that organization. They have a public service announcement with the actor Morgan Freeman and one of the first things he says is “what does hope look like?” I am really taken by that statement because we all define hope differently. Here’s an organization that uses rebuilding existing facilities to provide hope. I also value that they focus on existing facilities.
After I had the stroke and I could read, one of the first books I read was My Stroke of Insight by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. (She is a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist who experienced a severe hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain in 1996 at age 37.) The source of her stroke was also an AVM. Shortly after reading that book, I watched an interview with her about the book. Somebody was speaking about how they got the whole aspect of dignity from reading that book. Hope and dignity are great starts to translating ganas. I love that statement by Jaime Escalante where he says “students will rise to the level of expectations”. (The movie Stand and Deliver is a based on true story.)
In the back yard we have a mirror. We probably hung it up there 20 years ago. One doesn’t even notice it. There was no particular reason I hung it there many years ago. I just saw it as an entry to another place — one we generally don’t think about. Occasionally we have a bird fly up to the mirror and make contact, until they realize that it is a mirror and stop. But this year we have had the same bird repeatedly come up and make contact with the mirror. Pecking at the mirror. It is funny (I’m sure not for the bird) but it makes me think about ganas. There’s a saying about insanity, that it is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. What if that one time occurs? Another great start in translating ganas.
Two things have stood out to me lately. The first being the lyrics in The Fight Song by Rachel Platten where it says “I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion”. The other is during the Olympic games, Maya Angelou recited her poem The Human Family, in a commercial for the iPhone. What a treat! I love the last line of the poem which states “we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike”.
Do you have ganas?