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

Are you willing to die?

You are willing to die, you coward, but not to live. – Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf

Let me begin with one of my favorite books of all time: Steppenwolf. It is symbolic after all, for the book deals with a man who lives in seclusion, and yet in plain sight. Completely immersed into his own world, in his books and art, his love for classical music, he is arguably one of the strangest creatures around. Feeling as if he’s half man, half wolf, he cannot comprehend the ways of man and yet .. he can also not live without them. Wandering through life alone, sad and a bit lost, he meets this girl – and she says to him one of the most beautiful things anyone could say by asking how he could possibly be “done with life” if he didn’t even try everything life has to offer? How then, she wants to know, could he possibly be certain that life was not for him?

Truthfully, I have also not tried everything life has to offer and I’m sure neither have you. We are so easily defeated, we are so willing to believe that we’re “not good enough” or unable to reach certain goals – but until we try, how can we know? Until we die, how can we stop living? For the most essential thing about being alive is to keep on trying new things, to continuously reshape our ideas – in short, to be alive is to be in eternal transformation. Take this blog for instance. I was pretty convinced I was unable to have a themed blog – or to put in any real effort for an extended period of time. Well, I’m a coward. Because I never tried. Similarly, in your own ways you are a coward.

We have the right not to give up and to try out as many new things as we want to. No one can tell us what we must or mustn’t do with our lives. If you know where you’d like to go, go there! Don’t tell yourself you’re not “good enough” or “unable to achieve something”. Never believe that where you are is where you have to be – unless you like being there. Ask yourself whenever these thoughts come up: are you really done with life? Did you accomplish all of your goals – or are they still waiting for you to dare trying? In the end, the question Hesse is asking us is simple: are you willing to die while you’re alive, or do you want to live until you’re dead?