Thursday, June 15, 2017

Creating hope

Chapter 8 of the new book I'm working on is entitled HOPE. I had just started writing it when a friend came to visit. He sat down on the chair in front of my computer while I took a rest from sitting and got comfortable on my bed. Straight away we began a conversation about the miserable state of the world. Corruption, pollution, ignorance – all the usual suspects.

At some point my friend sighed and stared at the computer screen.
“Hope?”, he wondered, as he read the headline of the page. “No, there ain't no hope.”

I looked at him and could see the indifference and emptiness in his eyes. Deep and dark despair that covered up even the brightest sunlight. Everyone who has felt similar before knows that this kind of hopelessness is not fun at all. A feeling that everything will get worse, that there's nothing good to come. A bit like giving up on the future.

Some days are just like that and probably it's best to simply accept them as they are. However, the dangerous thing is to feed the dark despair and thus staying in a downward spiral. The human being is quite good at this type of self-torture, diving head first into one's own misery. And while we're busy painting everything black we forget that we always have a choice...

Here's an example of my own life: Sometimes I also feel disillusioned with all the greed, poison and exploitation in the world. Then I suddenly remember that I need to buy some food and without giving it any further consideration I head to the big supermarket. And guess what? After twenty minutes in the shopping factory I feel even worse! It's as if my inner darkness had been looking for a match in the outside world.

There are other times when I choose a different experience. Instead of feeding the darkness, I take a deep breath and consciously refuse to play this destructive game. So instead of going to the big supermarket I head to a small organic shop. And when I come out of there, the world looks much brighter again. Always! I can't remember a single time that I've left a small organic shop feeling depressed. It just doesn't happen – for darkness can't survive in light.

Long story short: To feel hopeful you have to help creating what you are hoping for. You want more natural food? Buy it. You want fairness? Support those who are fair. You want less pollution? Don't produce so much. You want generosity? Share what you have. You want peace in the world? Become peaceful yourself.  

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Summer is coming

Complaining about social injustice and environmental destruction and wearing t-shirts from H&M, Zara or Primark – doesn't make much sense, does it? Hence a few years ago I started to gradually buy more organic and fairtrade clothes, because I was and still am one of those complaining about the widespread exploitation of people and nature.

Every time you buy something, you choose the world you want to live in.

In order to provide another ethical shopping option to others (and to satisfy my own entrepreneurial heart), I founded COTTON POET at the end of last year. It's a clothing label offering soulful t-shirts made from organic cotton and under fair conditions. And...well, not much more to say really, other than: Summer is coming – are you prepared?

Get yours @ - organic, fair & soulful!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tick tock

We're running out of time. In one way quite literally, since we're all moving towards the end of our lives, every day a little bit closer. But in another way the growing sense of acceleration and the resulting stress is an illusion that we have created ourselves and that we keep fuelling with our modern 'civilised' lifestyle.

When did time begin to run out? I've asked this question a few friends and most assumed that it all started to go downhill during the industrial revolution. But an article I've recently read (in FLOW magazine #10) suggests that the all-too-familiar feeling of 'lack of time' began already 500 years before the first factories were built. Here's what happened: At some point in the middle ages, clocks started to appear in public places, especially on towers. Suddenly everyone always knew the exact time and everything was organized according to the new pulse of life: the ticking beat of the clock. Tick tock, tick tock.

Before the arrival of this controlling beat people used more organic measurements of time. “Let's meet in the morning after we've taken the cows to the field.” There was much more flexibility which meant that you had no reason to get stressed just because you might be ten minutes late. There was less pressure to be on time and so you had more freedom to enjoy beautiful moments (which tend to appear spontaneously, ie. unscheduled). The sun and the stars provided all the guidance – no clocks, just blowing wind and beating hearts. Almost like a timeless paradise.

I guess those romantic days are long gone. Nowadays it's important to know the time, and to be on time – it almost seems like a matter of survival. The generous rhythm of nature has been replaced by the tight rhythm of the clock. And wherever we are, whatever we do, we hear it ticking, the clock. Tick tock. Tick tock.

Perhaps with fewer clocks we'd have more time again.

Listening less to the constant ticking. 
Focusing more on simply being. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cheap, cheaper, dead

At least 75% of the times when I talk to someone about an ethical lifestyle the other person argues that it's simply too expensive to shop ethically. Honestly: I'm tired of this argument. Of course a t-shirt made with organic cotton and under fair conditions is more expensive than one that is made with toxic materials (polluting the earth, the workers and your own good self) and paying the workers just enough to buy petrol to set themselves on fire. It would be strange if the organic and fair shirt was cheaper, right?

Sometimes I get the feeling that people think it's easy for me to talk about ethical shopping decisions because, naturally, I'm rich. And you gotta be rich to buy organic broccoli, how else would it be possible? But guess what: I'm not rich.

There are a few people who can use the money argument, like a single Mum with three kids on benefits, struggling every day to get by. For a person like this I feel sorry that society has evolved into a system that produces these dire situations. Everyone else: Are you seriously trying to tell me that you don't have money to buy organic food (healthy for the planet, the farmer and the one eating it) but you have enough money to get drunk every week? What kind of priority is that? And before anyone is calling me a smartarse again, no, I'm not perfect.  Every time I end up choosing something non-organic I also ask myself that question of priorities. And the more I ask, the more often I choose the wiser option.

Here's another example: My ethical bank just obliged me to open a business account because there is a tiny bit of business movement on my private account. Stupid regulations and inflexible minds, but c'est la vie. For a moment I was considering to change back to my old bank, I'd save over 50 Euros per year. But my old bank invests money in arms companies and other dubious business models. Didn't I say I was against war? What would I say to a guy who lost his legs from a German-made bomb, financed by me? “Sorry mate, I preferred to spend the extra € 4,50 per month on big bags of crisps to get fat.” Like that?

The real problem is that ethical products aren't too expensive but all the toxic shit is far too cheap! We start thinking it's normal that everything costs so little; we are misled by shiny advertisements telling us that we're still buying quality stuff when really more money is spend on the ad campaign than on the actual product. But hey, if everything is getting cheaper all the time it means I can have more of everything, and more, and more, all for me! Paradise?, not quite.

If all products and services carried a price tag with the true cost, taking into consideration polluted rivers, disappearing soil, bombed cities and starving families, what you'd have to pay for food and clothes and bank accounts would be very different. Really it's quite simple: For most of the stuff we spend our money on, the less we pay, the more damage we do. But here's the twist: In a hyper-connected world, sooner or later we'll get the bill... Cheap, cheaper, dead!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A beautiful tomorrow

My 14-year old daughter asked me the other day about my opinion regarding Trump. I gave her the analogy of a huge spot on the nose: It makes you a bit more ugly, and if you're trying to fight it by squeezing it, there's a small but real chance of getting blood poisoning and dying. But the spot is not the main problem. The whole body is sick – the spot is only a sign telling you that something ain't right.

This is the world today: a disturbing increase of right-wing politics, more and higher walls on the land and in the mind, ever greater gaps between rich and poor, more division, more hatred, more fear. Yet none of these are the causes for the drama we're in, they're all symptoms. Symptoms of a sick society.

These days it's very easy to paint a grim and apocalyptic picture of our future. Even without taking into account all the environmental issues, there are plenty more dark colours available. Here's my favourite one at the moment: Due to automation and digitalisation half of all jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. Just imagine our current situation with unemployment rates of 40-50%! Unfortunately this is neither science fiction nor overly pessimistic thinking, it's exactly the reality which we're heading towards. Take a moment and really think about what this means... The problems we're facing today might be just the warm up for a dreadful nightmare that is unfolding right in front of our eyes.

To avoid this rather painful and depressive scenario, ie to avoid getting more and more ugly spots, three things need to happen:

1) We need to identify the real causes for our sick society. I don't have all the answers but I'd say that greed, excessive pride and lack of empathy are some of the things that got us into this mess. In other words: We are a bunch of very selfish beings who love competing and consuming and we've forgotten to care – for each other and for the planet we live on. So instead of looking for the great evil scapegoat OUT THERE, each one of us must look IN HERE and remedy the dark forces that lie within. You, me, everyone! Because world peace starts with a peaceful home.

2) We need to become visionaries and paint bright and colourful pictures of the future we want to live in. This is really important because it's so easy to imagine that everything will end in a horrible way – and because it's so easy, it's so often done. Yes, it's quite possible that it will get very nasty on our little rock, but it's not the only option. There is so much human potential to do good, we just have to make it visible. Hence we need to create visions of a beautiful tomorrow.

3) We need to start today. Because...

T-shirt available @ – organic, fair & soulful!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Labels are for clothes

Humans love to divide. We tend to think in terms of black or white, rather than enjoying the whole range of available colours. I assume it has to do with fear – in a totally insecure universe we are looking for something to hold on to, something that gives us stability. So we put labels on everything and identify ourselves with these labels in the most ridiculous and rigid ways.

“I'm not a Vegan so I will order the steak”; “I'm a Christian, therefore Muslims are wrong”; “I'm European and so I prefer to help a European arsehole instead of a nice person from Africa”. Sadly, these are all real life examples.

Given that we all live on the same ball of rock though, spinning through space, it's probably not the best idea to divide everything into little groups and spend our precious time fighting over who is right and who is wrong. Competition won't save us – cooperation will. And cooperation starts with dropping all these rigid labels that keep us separated and trapped. Remember, limitation is a creation of the mind!

You don't have to become...

  • a Buddhist to be inspired by Buddhism
  • a Vegan to enjoy and benefit from vegan food
  • a Communist to support communistic ideas
  • an Eco-freak to start eating organic food
  • a Social worker to help others
  • a Nationalist to shop locally
  • an Environmentalist to clean up the Earth
  • a Feminist to speak up for women's rights
  • a Writer to tell good stories
  • a Farmer to grow food
  • a Utopian to hope for a brighter future
  • a Hippie to spread love
  • a Saint to lead by good example

Just do your best and try to make the world a better place, each day a little bit.

When you're not attached to any beliefs or to a character that you've created for yourself, you can face everything without fear.” (José Martin)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Shedding impotence

Short recap: There's Trump and Brexit, a whole bunch of facist leaders rising in Europe, endless killing in Aleppo and the US army fighting peaceful protestors of its own country at Standing Rock in North Dakota. With soon 8 billion people, there's more pollution than ever, top soils are eroding at an larming rate, plastic is replacing fish in the oceans and millions of modern slaves all over Asia are producing our x-mas gifts. We're not doing too well, are we?

This is only a small extract of all the things that are going wrong. The list is long, very long! So long that it's very tempting to put the whole damn list aside and get ridiculously stoned or drunk or watch some crap on TV. Anything to distract from reality! The problems are just too big and way beyond our reach – we can't change anything anyway, can we? We're too small, too powerless, too insignificant. And so we start to feel more and more impotent and put our hopes in someone else. Someone else will sort it out, someone else will make it all good again. But guess what? That someone else is you and me because without us, nothing will happen!

So it's time to shed the illusion of impotence and to take back our power. How? Through our every day choices! Here are four things that we all use: food, clothes, banking and transport. There's more of course, like housing, hygiene, computers, etc., but I haven't looked into them enough. If you have more experience in some of these fields, please inspire us! Now, back to the four:

FOOD – some of you might be tired of me constantly advocating organic and local food, but it's just so crucial and probably the most powerful thing we can do. Unless you've managed to live of sunlight, you eat food every single day. So every single day you can choose which kind of world you want to support: a healthy and sustainable one, or a destructive one.

CLOTHES – like food, you use them every day. But who makes your clothes? Do you really want to wear stuff for which other people and the planet have to suffer? Yes, ethically produced clothes are more expensive (or more precisely, most other clothes today are far too cheap and don't reflect the true cost of their production), but again, it's about choosing. For the last couple of years most of the clothes that I bought were organic and fairtrade, and I'd say about 80% of all the people I know have a higher monthly income than I do. So if I can do it, at least 80% of the people who read this can do the same.

BANKING – this is an often overlooked choice, but also a very powerful one. And it's so simple: There are ethical banks which invest your money in social and sustainable projects. There is absolutely no need to let greedy investors use your money for wars and other profitable but very harming business models. It's your money – you decide what it does.

TRANSPORT – cars and planes are great because they offer us freedom. But they have two big disadvantages: 1) they are polluting the air that we breathe and 2) they rely on oil, which means that whoever uses cars and planes is supporting the rather dubious practices of the oil companies. There's cycling, bus riding, train travelling and car sharing – anything that reduces our consumption of oil is good. And yes, in a way I might seem hypocritical here because I still fly and drive sometimes, but I'm working on reducing it. I also don't think any of this is about being perfect. It's about making progress towards a better, fairer and more beautiful world – one step at a time.

Having said all that, I'd like to introduce you to one of the steps that I've recently made myself. Here's the story: For six years I've been writing this blog, called 'reflections on changing times'. Furthermore I'm making my living writing books, which is wonderful and I feel very grateful for being able to do it. However, while words on paper and screen can certainly inspire change, ultimately words alone won't change anything. So the last few years I felt a desire to apply some of the things I write about to a business project. I wanted to be able to offer a product that is both essential AND ethical. Although, I must admit that I'm not sure if I'm the best person for a sales job – in my life I already tried to sell postcards, calenders, chocolate, houses and turbans (no joke!), and with all I failed miserably, at least from a financial point of view. But hey, it's always fun to start a new adventure...

Long story short: I've started a clothing label with the name COTTON POET – combining words and ethics with an everyday product like a t-shirt.

All shirts (and tank tops for the ladies) are certified organic and fairtrade, and they are really soft to wear too! The colours used for the screenprinting are both organic and vegan, and all shirts were printed on full moon. Ok, the last one is a lie. But here's something else that's true: FREE worldwide shipping until the end of 2016!

Happy Christmas!