Aside

I just checked when I wrote my last entry.

August 18

,it sais.

Hey, that actually reminds me of a song: Summer of ’69. Since, eh, it feels about that long ago since I last posted an entry here. Which is weird considering the fact that I’ve been writing immensely much these last few months. “So, why is it so long ago then?”, nobody asks. I really and honestly don’t know. I kept thinking to myself: “ah yes, this would actually be good blog post”. Mostly when it was related to a quote. Which was of course the whole purpose of this blog to begin with. But you know how it goes, life just takes over. And once a day quite quickly turns in to, well, once in about 8 months… ? First it was my thesis that got in the way, then the job search and finally, the job itself.

And you know what they say about student life being the best time of your life and you needing to enjoy and hold on to it for as long as you can, because before you know it, it will be over and you’ll never be that free again? It’s true, it’s all true. Every last bit of it. I’m sure it’s true no matter how much you love your job. But, what if you don’t? If you like it and think it’s rather okay for the fact you’ve only graduated 8 months ago, but you don’t love it? You find it hard to keep motivated at work, and it gets worse with each passing day? You fantasize about long and pointless conversations about any (just any) subject you’re passionate about, because you’re drained of enthusiasm for the tasks at hand? This new-found lack of freedom can feel penetrating, almost suffocating. Sure, there are moments and people I quite enjoy, but the larger part of my days are spent daydreaming of a time where I will finally be doing something I love again. Something that simply excites me, at least 70 % of the times.

Now, to hell with it. I shan’t complain. Worse things have happened. Guess it’s time to take on one of life’s whimsical challenges, no matter how irritating they can be, and realize that there is almost always a reason for why we feel the way we feel. And that there’s only two things we can do when things go awry: we can deal with them, or if we can’t, then we must accept them. Now, I’d say I’m still flexible, dynamic and perhaps stupid enough to not simply accept a job that doesn’t really make me happy and … deal with it by moving on. Because yes, the times spent at university, just like the summer of 69 for Bryan Adams, may have been “… the best days of my life”, but my life isn’t over just yet. And I’m actually quite enjoying my little pursuit of “an adult life that doesn’t completely erase who I’ve been so far”, unless preferable. So, even though this chapter seems to have run its course, new chapters are already in the making, just waiting to be read and experienced like all the ones before.

To conclude,

Ain’t no use in complainin’
When you got a job to do

unless you could be doing another and better one too, in which case, there may be some use in finding a new one instead.

So, cheers to you all. Maybe I will put some of the stuff up that I recently wrote. Maybe sometime soon.

Maybe. Or not.

Either way, why not sit back and think back of the best days of your life for the time being?

 

Man we were killin’ time
We were young and restless
We needed to unwind
I guess nothin’ can last forever

 

 

Have a destiny, will ya?!

I apologize for not writing a post in quite a while, but the last weeks/months of my life were very turbulent. I took about two days of “vacation” after finishing my MA thesis before I got bored and jumped head first into the job and apartment search. For some, not doing the safe thing (moving back home) and instead starting my own independent life right here and now is both too risky and too difficult. But let me tell you, it wasn’t nearly as nerve-wracking as some would like me to believe. There are a number of reasons why my level of fear seems to be “inapproriately low” for a recently graduated person such as myself, but I will only mention one. Destiny. That sense of purpose we derive from instinctively believing in and following our dreams without actually losing sight of reality in the process. Why are so many of us increasingly cynical when it comes to creating (and trusting in) our own destiny?

Well, as Paulo Coelho once uncannily observed, there seems to be a peculiar relationship between believing in our dreams and … growing up. It’s as if we go from the conviction that anything (yes, including Santa) is possible to the detriment of “knowing our limits”. Now, don’t get me wrong. We obviously have limits. I’m never going to be an engineer or an astrophysicist. Also, I fear neither the Easterbunny nor Santa will ever knock on my door and say “guess what, we exist!”. And yet, I think human beings are creators. They may never be able to defy gravity or communicate telepathically (but hey, maybe Google Glass will take care of that one, who knows), but it’s still mind-blowing what people can do if only they’d put their minds to it. If they make it their destiny. Yes, we have limits. But we also have incredible power. Isn’t it sad that children are much more aware of this than most adults?

What makes us so fearful of trying out new things? Why do so many of us nearly die at the thought of taking risks, of spending a bit of time in absolute uncertainty? I’m sure it’s only a small part of the explanation, but still, sometimes I think it’s because we focus on our defeats rather than on our possibilites. Instead of using our imagination to push us forward, we get lost in our stockpile of bad experiences. We remember somebody telling us we’re not particularly fun or talented or driven, and instead of proving them wrong, some of us go “oh well, I guess if you think that, it must be true”. Eurm, no?! That’s one person’s opinion. In life, there’s two ways to respond to the fear of failure: by letting it define you, or by overcoming it.

Actually, there’s this psychologist who’s been treating people with phobias (think snakes and spiders) in (so he says) less than a day, and he found that, if the phobia was cured, these people reported being much less fearful and inhibited in their lives overall. I feel a bit embarrassed for not remembering the man’s name, but really, it doesn’t matter all that much. Because the message here is simple: you become what you think. The more fear gets to your mind, the more it defines the entirety of your actions. Focus instead on your dreams and you might just be able to achieve them (granted, you must retain a certain sense of realism in all of this). I said it before, and I’ll say it again: past experiences shouldn’t kill your future dreams. In no way should they be capable of robbing you of that childhood certainty that you have a destiny.

Destiny isn’t something written in the stars. It’s knowing something’s right for you and not stopping, until you get it. Destiny is self-creation and self-recreation. But, there’s only one way to do that: by having faith in who you are, the negative included. Because you’d be amazed to what positive uses you can put your perceived negative qualities once you stop thinking about yourself in black-and-white terms. Be courageous. You want it? Get it. Defy the odds. Take a leap of faith (in yourself) and jump head first into the unknown. Realize that you are in eternal transformation. And since you and everything around you will never stop changing, you might as well assume an active role instead of passively watching where life takes you next. And whenever you’re about to hold yourself back by believing you’re not good enough for your very own destiny, think of Paulo Coelho and remember this one simple truth:

You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen – Paulo Coelho

Taken from Ms Moem: There Are No Limits To What You Can Do

You Are What You Eat

I’m not a hardcore vegetarian or anything, but lately, I’ve had a very hard time buying meat. A while back as I was standing in the store, I thought to myself that something’s not quite right here. Suddenly and out of nowhere, it hit me – I’m literally staring at chopped up body parts. Dead pieces of life, nicely packed and orderly stacked. So, what did I do? I left the store with a whole bunch of vegetables, but then when I finally got home, I realized I had absolutely no idea what precisely vegetarians eat on a day-to-day basis – apart from my friend’s infamous curry maybe but who wants to eat curry every single day? For so long, cooking hadn’t verged all that much of my attention on any regular day, but now, it was honestly just a mess of vegetables and an ex carnivore staring at them in a puzzled, sort of lost kind of way.

If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian. Paul McCartney

But, things have changed. I filled peppers with mushrooms and rice, made pasta with a delicious goat cheese and veggie sauce, and my fridge is filled with stuff I actually know what do with. Overall, I’ve been feeling lighter, less sluggish, just … happier. In fact, my cooking probably improved and recently, I even started doing sports again. All in all, it’s been a great experience. And yet, I found myself puzzled. What was it that had been able to change my perspective so suddenly and, above all, so drastically? Well, a couple of days ago something else hit me: shortly before the Holocaust-like associations started to invade my thoughts in the store, I’d read Hermann Hesse‘s – indeed, you know him from my very first postSiddharta.

Taken from animalethics

Siddharta’s story has of course nothing to do with eating meat. It’s about Brahmin’s son who travels India to find Enlightenment. He’d grown up among people who claimed to have found it and yet he felt he wouldn’t be able to learn about life through their – or anyone’s – teachings, not even the Buddha‘s. He wanted to leave and experience life (something Steppenwolf had yet to learn from someone else), instead of relying on the insights gained from third party experiences .. or as he puts it

Wisdom which a wise man tries to pass on to someone always sounds like foolishness.

It’s a long journey and I won’t tell you the whole story (for one, because you should read it – preferably in German), but here’s the important part. Somewhere near the end of the book, his childhood friend Govinda, whom he hadn’t seen in many years, asked him whether he found what he had been looking for all this time and Siddhartha said yes. He’d learned from his path (and especially from listening to the river), that there was an intrinsic connection between all things. This connection, he believed, was eternal and so every thing that existed in this world was too. Or, to let Siddhartha speak his own words:

 This here […] is a stone, and will, after a certain time, perhaps turn into soil, and will turn from soil into a plant or animal or human being. In the past, I would have said: This stone is just stone, it is worthless, it belongs to the world of the Maja; but because it might be able to become also a human being and a spirit in the cycle of transformations, therefore I also grant it importance. Thus, I would perhaps have thought in the past. But today I think: this stone is a stone, it is also animal, it is also god, it is also Buddha, I do not venerate and love it because it could turn into this or that, but rather because it is already and always everything – and it is this very fact, that it is a stone, that it appears to me now and today as a stone, this is why I love it and see worth and purpose in each of its veins and cavities […].

Consider it for a while, I (now) know I did. If you’re anything like me, one day, you may never quite look at yourself or the world in much the same way you used to and, surely, you’ll never sink your teeth into a cow’s thighs again without thinking twice about it. Because hey, for all you know? You were what you eat.

Taken from toplifequotes

Tick-tock, time’s up!

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. – Douglas Adams

Ah yes, deadlines. And Douglas Adams. I don’t think there’s many writers who’ve ever made me laugh more. If you’ve made it through the introduction of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (you’re right, this isn’t a quote from that book) without wanting to read every single book he’s ever written, you must either really hate reading or … humor. But there’s a third option. You might simply not have any time on your hands – which is unfortunately where I’m going with this post.

Time is a horrible thing. You wake up one morning and suddenly it’s gone. You wonder where to. Yesterday, it seemed as if you still had forever, but suddenly months morph into weeks and weeks … let’s not go there. I love writing these posts. I may not have all that many readers, but that’s never kept me from putting in a great deal of effort. Sometimes, it takes me up to three hours to find, write and tweak one single entry, after which I feel so worn out and distracted, I barely know how to continue my 30.000 word (uch) thesis – don’t you just hate priorities?

Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now? – Douglas Adams

Thus, for now at least, I simply can’t keep up the one-post-a-day rhythm and am forced to reduce it to about one every three days. Hopefully, if time ever decides to be on my side again, I can go back to writing daily. Yes, I’ve always had a bit of a tendency to put way too much stuff on my plate, but still, I’d rather avoid choking on it. Whoosh. Did you hear that? Tick-tock, I really got to go but before I leave, promise me one thing: read something by Adams. Anything. You’ll love it. If you don’t … not even time can save you.

Can you see me?

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. Oscar Wilde

It couldn’t have been much more than a year ago that a guy (let’s call him Frank) asked me for my hand. Romantic, isn’t it? Not so much. See, the problem with Frank was that I didn’t have much of a clue who Frank was. Sure, we’d exchanged a bunch of messages on Facebook, but I do that with so many people I meet online. It really startled me and since I had absolutely no idea how to respond, I ended up saying nothing at all. A few days later, Frank deleted me off his friends list. I couldn’t pretend to be all that disappointed because, to be honest, my mind still hadn’t come up with anything to say. And yet, something about it kept on bothering me, but it wasn’t the lack of Frank’s presence in my inbox. No, what bothered me was how on Earth he’d been able to fall in love with someone profile-to-profile?

Taken from brizzdazz

Well, not too long ago a TED talk caught my attention. In the The Future of Lying, Jeff Hancock illustrates the problem of deception, something that’s been fascinating us for thousands of years. From Diogenes and Confucius right down to the modern day, we’ve wondered time and time again: why is it that people can just make things up? Not that we wouldn’t enjoy novels or tv series, but still, people don’t limit the use of their imagination to just storytelling. Even where the most mundane and boring parts of our lives are concerned – we lie. Research has shown that we do it approximately one to two times a day. It would be easy to assume that online – free from reality’s constraints – we’d be even less honest than usual, but oddly that’s not the case. According to Hancock we lie only by “a little bit”. Thus, although we may not be telling the truth per se, it’s close enough.

Wait, what? Yes. He’s used diary studies in order to determine our honesty across different media. A number of people were asked to record “all of their conversations and lies for seven days”. He then calculated “how many lies took place per conversation within a medium”. First, Hancock mentions e-mail (which is the most honest medium) and the phone (the least honest), but he also talks about Facebook. And, surprisingly, it really helped my confusion quite a bit. Why? Well, I suppose I’m not the only one who simply assumed that Facebook’s only showing us the most “idealized versions” of people, or to quote Hancock “no way are my friends that cool!”. But oh no, we may all be very much mistaken. By comparing the description of someone’s personality made by four of his closest friends to that made by a number of strangers based on his profile…Hancock and his team arrived at the following conclusion:

Those judgments of personality were pretty much identical, highly correlated. Meaning that Facebook profiles really do reflect our actual personality. – Jeff Hancock

Taken from mycareerbuzz

Possibly, Frank’s been playing the speed-dating game at much higher level than most – by profile hunting people. Our semi-lame exchange of messages might’ve had nil to do with him throwing his hat in the ring. It could’ve just been my taste in movies or the way I (usually don’t) do my hair. Plus, speaking as someone who’s always had a lot of “virtual” friends, I really do understand how great it can be to talk to someone who isn’t even remotely connected to your environment. So, who’s to say that these well crafted profiles we feel so comfortable hiding behind aren’t giving away much more of ourselves than we think and that some people, like Frank, are more attuned to this fact than others? Oscar Wilde – who was after all the master of artful lying – may have been on to something rather important. Namely that, whenever we’re dealing with any kind of mask, what we actually end up with is the bare naked soul of whomever is wearing it.

Beauty Devolution

A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous. Coco Chanel

Okay, so you may or may not have noticed but I tend to work around quotes I genuinely like and feel personally attached to. Well, not in this case. I absolutely hate this quote. Now, apart from the fact that I’m still fairly uncertain what “classy and fabulous” even means to most people, it bothers me to no conceivable end that young girls all over the world put this up as their Facebook motto’s and Twitter descriptions. In my personal view, a girl shouldn’t be “two things”, she should be whatever (the hell) she wants to be. Also, and no offense to Coco – who I’m sure really did mean to help advance the status of women from being mere housewives to having the right to feel like actual people -, but do we really believe that this quote is so popular because it makes young women feel better?

Taken from popdust

I’m not going to write a piece on just how much pressure is put on women to look beautiful, because frankly I think we’re in no way more affected by society’s ridiculous standards than men are. Only yesterday, Glen Poole for The Guardian stated how nowadays boys “as young as 10 are beginning to worry about their body image”. Ten, for crying out loud. Basically, the article speaks of the fact that, although it is true that women are still more commonly affected by eating disorders, the problem is no longer confined to just them. Men’s perception of their bodily flaws may differ in content from the worries of women, but all in all “extreme perspectives are damaging to both girls and boys transitioning into adulthood”. Extreme perspectives of what men (strong, successful, tall) and women (slim, flawless, sexy) should be.

Now, I sort of agree with Poole that “being a success symbol (or a sex symbol) in the game of relationships will always be a driver for young men and women”, and I also concur with his belief that we should nonetheless try and find ways to make young boys and girls (and millions of adults, for that matter) “feel happy in their own skin”. But how are we going to do that? How, in a society that is already so fundamentally driven by artificial standards are we going to tell our children that it’s okay to be “who they are”, without enhancements? Ironically, today, Jessie Cole (also for The Guardian) pointed out that “formidably intelligent, beautiful 31-year-old” people, in this case her friend, are already getting botox. Their faces, she says, have much less expression, are somewhat shiny and appear (emotionally) impenetrable. Is it any coincidence that people like me have lost all faith in perfection when what we call perfect today, doesn’t even really exist?

Taken from RedLips HighHeels

The same goes for at least about a thousand youtube videos. Young girls who show other young girls how to plaster their face with just about enough make-up to hide every single flaw they might have, and preferably even change their facial features. After all, it’s a cheap alternative to plastic surgery, right? But hang on a minute, what’s happening here? Of course, we all know our beauty standards are ridiculous, but when everybody gives into them so easily, where will we end up? Is the beauty of the future a perfectly symmetrical, flawless face? Should we all just get an appointment with our plastic surgeons straight away, to make sure everybody comes out looking exactly the same? Or should we control beauty by birth and only let the most genetically perfect human beings procreate?

At some point, we’re going to have to realize that all these media images we’re competing with aren’t even real. Botox, photoshop and starvation can have a marvelous effect on many a model. But … is that really the kind of beauty we want to have? The kind that will always tell men and women all over the world that they’re “not good enough”? The kind that makes young ten-year-old children hate themselves? The kind that enhances quotes like “a girl should be two things”? Well, girls and boys all over the world, you don’t have to be anything specific. If the media’s fake image of reality is the only thing that’s “good enough”, then by all means, feel free to not be good enough.

Taken from Happiness Project

Because if we start reducing ourselves to being two things (classy & fabulous or successful & tall), we forget that we’re over a thousand different things, and they’re all worth exploring. What this world is, well … that’s not for any of us to change. But what we are, how we perceive ourselves, who we want to be? That is, and the less people cave in, the less imperfection will stand out. In the end, a human should be one thing: human. All else … is bunk. And, just because I found it very inspiring, listen to this girl – she has something very deep to say that makes the shallow surfaces of our modern perceptions on beauty remind me of one of my favorite Ally McBeal quotes: “You put the fish in the superficial!”.

Well, in that case? This fish’s saying: so long and thanks, but I’m not going in that dish!

Woman is sold to women … while doing what she believes is preening herself, scenting herself, clothing herself, in a word ‘creating’ herself, she is, in fact, consuming herself.Jean Baudrillard

The Heart of the Event

Everywhere what is sought is the ‘heart of the event’, the ‘heart of the battle’, the ‘live’, the ‘face to face’ – the dizzy sense of a total presence at the event, the Great Thrill of Lived Reality – i.e. the miracle once again, since the truth of the media report, televised and taped, is precisely that I was not there. But it is the truer than true which counts or, in other words, the fact of being there without being there. Or, to put it yet another way, the fantasy. What mass communications give us is not reality, but the dizzying whirl of reality […] – Jean Baudrillard

On April 25th, Matt Buchanan posted his article The Medium of The Moment on The New Yorker‘s web page. It’s an interesting little piece, arguing that Twitter is the medium of the moment because its primary aim is to deliver information in terms of nowness which isn’t exactly the same as newness:

Nowness is not simply newness, or the new: the question Twitter used to ask of users when they went to compose a tweet, “What’s happening?” is a direct inquiry about the state of now.

Fair enough, Facebook’s been asking very similar questions – “What’s happening?”, “How are you feeling?”, “What’s on your mind?” (stop harassing me!) – and yet … Buchanan has a point. In 2010, Nicholas Carr published a book named The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. Carr describes how he began to notice a decline in his overall ability to concentrate. Not only were he and some of his correspondents distracted much more easily, they also felt a high ADHD-like need for stimulation and appeared less able than before to focus deeply on anything for prolonged periods of time. The speed with which, he says, data can now be gathered online has made the reading of an entire book seem a tiny bit obsolete. Instead of going over hundreds of pages to find the bits and pieces of information you need, it’s a hell of a lot simpler to just google it. Thus, in a bit of a McLuhian fashion, Carr sets out to link possible neural changes to the age of cheap, fast, always available data by retracing what happened to society whenever a new medium was introduced (be it maps, the transition from oral to written culture or Gutenberg’s press – in case you’d like to know a bit more, watch this video).

Taken from Lehrblogger

What can science tell us about the actual effects that Internet use is having on the way our minds work? No doubt, this question will be the subject of a great deal of research in the years ahead. Already, though, there is much we know or can surmise. The news is even more disturbing than I had suspected. Dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, educators, and Web designers point to the same conclusion: when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. It’s possible to think deeply while surfing the Net […] but that’s not the type of thinking the technology encourages and rewards. – Nicholas Carr

In short: according to Carr, any new medium has the power to change society by affecting the brain’s neuroplasticity. The way we surf the Internet heavily impacts the way we think. Twitter and the like, for instance, provide our brains with a shot of dopamine each time we check our notifications and messages – a shot we become addicted to so easily, we barely even notice it’s happening. It’s such an entertaining and seemingly harmless drug, that it’s quite likely the most socially accepted one to date. But, coming back to Buchanan’s claim, why in this world of free dopamine shots would Twitter be the medium of the moment? Why not Facebook? Well, here’s a suggestion. I don’t know about your Twitter timeline, but mine quite literally exploded during Europe’s annual eurovision song contest – while Facebook, in comparison, felt a bit like attending a (really boring) funeral. Although I refused to watch, I know of almost every single thing that happened during eurovision, which even prompted me to rename it – I now call it the eurovision tweet contest. But it doesn’t stop there, we’re constantly witnessing Twitter’s dazzling speed. Remember the pope, or Buchanan’s example of the Boston Marathon bombings (and the many mishaps associated with it), and yes .. even Steve Job’s death.

Taken from Tweeteronix

At the heart of the event, without having to see it or tune in, without ever having to be there. A web version of reality that is, just as Baudrillard predicted in 1970, more dizzying than reality itself, more explosive, more direct, more now than now: nowness. It’s a speed thing, and (with the possible exception of Reddit) no social media platform’s better able to satisfy this need than Twitter. A total presence, that is always both listening and watching. A constant stream of messages, all-delivering, all-devouring. Also, a lot more sloppy, more emotional and more fragmented (the most glaring omission often being… objectivity). But Twitter isn’t alone of course. Nowness is just as much Google’s business – after all, your click-stream data sells like ice cream on a hot summer’s day. But, is it all bad? Carr, who like most of us likes and regularly uses the Internet, doesn’t necessarily seem to think so. However, he does leave us with a warning:

The Web’s connections are not our connections—and no matter how many hours we spend searching and surfing, they will never become our connections. When we outsource our memory to a machine, we also outsource a very important part of our intellect and even our identity.

Now, I’m not saying I want us all to give up on the Internet, or alternatively ourselves. No, I wouldn’t want that. What I would want however is to know that by the time I have children, instead of learning how to use a tablet, or connect to social media with Google Glass, they also learn how to read and understand lengthy arguments. I hope they will still enjoy sitting under a tree holding their favorite book (even if it’s the e-reader version, which frankly might help us save some trees). Yes, I hope we’ll remember that contemplation matters and cannot be replaced with being connected all the time. For, outside this heavy whirl, far beyond the constant penetration of nowness, there is a place in our minds which needs to be fed. And, despite what some media gurus may believe, to survive and grow, it needs a lot more than constant stimulation. Instead of being at the heart of the event, the live, the schizophrenic condition of the 21st century, it needs to remember how to be at its own heart, how to be in a state of absolute tranquility. What it needs is the right to be by itself, in its very own here … and its very own now.