Tuesday, October 10, 2017

This is home

In Germany the ultra right-wing AfD party received almost 13% of votes in last month's election. In the USA the elected president goes crazy because some football players don't stand up for the national anthem. In Spain the central government and half the country are battling with Catalonia over two flags.

I'm proud to be German, I'm proud to be American, I'm proud to be Spanish or Catalan. And it's MY country, don't touch it!

As much as I try to relate to this romantic idea of country possession, with every passing day I find it more and more absurd. Call me a retarded hippie or whatever you like but I just don't get it. Why do you care so much about a country? Why does it matter? It's just a line on a map, isn't it? Useful for administrative purposes and Olympic games, but not to fight over and die for.

It might help to remember where we are...drifting on a tiny rock in a universe that is so huge it blows your mind just trying to imagine it. And this is not even the only universe! In other words, what's the point of defending a country when the whole planet is our true home? The only home we got.

America first? Fuck that! We have to put the Earth first, now and always!

You wanna be proud of something? Reduce, reuse and recycle. Eat organic food. Share your harvest. Clean the beach. Plant some trees. Smile, laugh, cry and learn and try to do as little harm as possible. Open your heart and become an outrageously courageous soldier of nature!

The ground we all walk on doesn't belong to anyone. We're just lucky to be here and the only thing that makes sense is to look after our host as good as we can, to treat her gently and respectfully and to not wreck the whole place. Others might want to enjoy this little paradise too.

We'll survive without flags and countries. We won't survive without love and shelter.






Monday, September 18, 2017

Disarming anger

This month I was going to write about why I think that at least 80% of all politicians who are over 60 years old should resign. However, a few days ago I had an interesting little experience which I'd like to share and so the bashing of the politicians has to wait till next month.

I was waiting at the bus stop, sitting next to a tree and having a moment of peace. At some point a car approached and parked about 20 meters away from me. A guy in a bus driver uniform stepped out and while sipping at a can of coke he went over to another parked car and started talking to a colleague. While I was staring at them, daydreaming about something else, I saw that the first guy finished the coke and then, totally unexpected, he threw the empty can into the bush next to him. At once my daydream stopped.

I whistle, he turns round and smiles at me.
Do you think this is normal?”, I wonder, not hiding my indignation.
What?”
Throwing your rubbish into the bush!”
He seems surprised and smiles again.
I'm serious”, I say with a louder voice, “what if everybody did that?”
As if you never throw anything away”, he replies, a little louder still.
Yes, but into the bin and not just...”
He snaps.
Listen, I got up at 5.30 this morning and worked the last 7 hours. I don't care what you think and I don't give a fuck where I throw this can!”
We start to shout at each other, both angry that someone has destroyed our peaceful moment. After a minute of silly insults the battle ceases and we proceed to ignore each other. Shortly after I get up and head to the bus. With a shaking head I'm cursing the blatant ignorance I have just come across.

While the bus rolled onto the motorway I kept thinking about this idiot and how there are far too many people like him in this world. Anger and frustration took hold of me and I felt my whole body being poisoned with negative energy. And then I suddenly realized how pointless this confrontation had been. I was angry and sooner or later I would pass this anger on to someone else. Same with the other guy, probably he went home and let his agitation out on his wife or his kids. There was only one winner and that was anger itself.

Sitting by the window and watching the passing fields and mountains I started to think about a book I recently read, about non-violent communication. Like many other books it contains all sorts of wonderful advice for a better and healthier co-existence but all this advice is of course totally useless unless it is applied. So, what if I had used non-violent communication in this situation?Expressing my own feelings and needs AND listening to the other person with empathy. Could have been something like this:

Look, I understand that you are tired after a long day's work and that you don't want to be dealing with some random guy who tells you what to do with your rubbish.”
My voice is calm and the bus driver doesn't know how to react.
I'm sorry for getting on your nerves”, I continue. “But I would appreciate it if you could see my perspective too. I was sitting here peacefully, surrounded by a little bit of beautiful nature, and then you appear and throw your empty coke can into my little paradise. I'm sure you meant no harm but I'm also sure that you'd agree that nature is nicer without rubbish.”

Maybe he would have punched me right in the face. Or maybe he would have nodded in agreement and we both would have left the scene with a smile. Who knows... There's only one way to find out and that's by trying it out in the next situation of conflict.






Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tobacco, reggaeton and other health hazards

I smoke. I know it's not the healthiest thing but I still do it. Call it addiction, stupidity or a fucked-up passion, all fine. But while I'm doing it I rather enjoy it than giving myself a hard time. Whatever you do, do it with love, right?

The other day I was in my local tobacco shop and had a conversation with the owner about those nasty photos of black lungs and rotten teeth that now cover every single tobacco product. Apparently the photos are meant to keep young people from starting to smoke and perhaps even encouraging some older smokers to quit.

Let's assume for a moment that photos could indeed change our behaviour. The big question would be this: Why only on cigarette packets?
The tobacco shop owner told me that his niece said to him that she had learned at school that smoking is very harmful and that she's worried because her parents smoke. An understandable concern. However, one week later he met his niece in town with a Big Mac in her hand. “They didn't tell you about McDonalds at school, did they?”

Okay, so let's put shocking photos on cigarette packets. But then there should be also photos of ill people on every burger from a fast food chain. Photos of fat diabetics on every bottle of coca cola, close-ups of destroyed livers on every alcoholic beverage, dead heads before 90% of all TV shows and images of crying souls on every album of reggaeton. And every DJ playing reggaeton should be shot for prophylactic reasons!

One day I'll quit again. And when I do, it will be because of deep self-love and a desire to live healthier. It won't be because I've seen some scary photo. Because if photos really changed our behaviour, there would be no war and terror in the world by now...



Friday, July 21, 2017

Adolf and Buddha

Parents – you gotta love them! Because without them, you wouldn't be here. But apart from this loving gratitude for ones creation, how comes I don't know a single person who has a sane and harmonious relationship with their parents? It always seems to be a struggle, often bordering on sheer madness and sometimes even going beyond that. Why can't it just be nice?

Recently a friend summed up two days with her mum and dad like this: “If Buddha had had my parents, he wouldn't have succeeded with enlightenment.” It's a funny reflection, and a very sad one. Being a dad myself, I really hope that my daughter will never have to say something like this about me. It doesn't always have to be super easy, the relationship between child and parent, but surely it's not meant to be as complicated and depressing as it often is. Not such an everlasting drama.

There's a great quote that I read somewhere: “If you think you're enlightened, go and spend a week with your parents.” Amen to that!

I wonder what would have happened if Buddha had not left his parents in the royal palace? Perhaps he would have become an angry ruler, letting his frustrations out on his people. A vicious tyrant instead of a peaceful saint. Who knows...

Sometimes you come to crossroads which determine your whole life. Like moving away from your parents, getting married or quitting a job. When he was 18 years old, Adolf Hitler applied to an art academy in Vienna. He was a passionate painter and dreamt of pursuing a career in the arts. His application was rejected. He stayed put and tried again one year later but again without success. The rest is history. But imagine he would have been accepted in the academy? Instead of a ruthless dictator he might have become a new Picasso. Who knows...

I deeply believe that no one is born evil. It's life that forms us and sometimes life is not very kind. Or at least it seems that way because life itself is neither kind nor unkind. It just is. And it's each one of us who chooses to learn and thrive, or to ignore the lessons and give up. For some it's harder, for some easier – but everyone chooses.

Everyone creates his or her own path. And everyone also chooses how to look at others. Do you just see what a person has become? Or do you also try to see why a person has become what he or she is?

With regards to parents: They also have had parents and they too have to cope with all the challenges of life, with all the ups and downs and with the big uncertainty that lies ahead. Sometimes it helps to remember this. Not that it justifies every madness but it helps to understand and through understanding you end up feeling more sorry than angry. Not perfect, I know, but pity is preferable to anger – because pity can lead to forgiving and love, while anger only makes everything worse.




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 @ www.cottonpoet.com - 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.