Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Missing the silence

The road was empty. No cars, no tourists, no noise. Just me and the silent concrete.

I had just arrived at Málaga airport. I had been stranded in Germany for four months, far from my daughter, my girlfriend and the sea. It was June 21st, the beginning of summer, and I had come on one of the first flights after the Corona lockdown. I was greeted by a poster of a crucified Jesus with a colourful phrase asking me whether I was ready to have fun, then my temperature was taken and finally I exited the airport where I was interviewed by a local newspaper. Then a 10-minute walk to my car. On normal days, you can hardly cross the road, it's so busy – and always! That day, however, I walked right in the middle of the three lanes. It felt like I had landed in a post-apocalyptic world, the last survivor on planet Earth. All alone. The end.

Humankind has gone through far worse times than 2020. If you were to tell the people who lived through the black plague of the Middle Ages about Covid-19 they'd laugh at you! But considering that most of Europe has enjoyed several decades of peace and prosperity, the Corona crisis has been the biggest crisis most of us have experienced so far. Many voices were heard saying that nothing will be the same anymore. 'Life is now changed. Forever. What was is not coming back.' (Chris Martenson). A potential glimpse of hope for a world that has been getting sicker and sicker over the years. But is there really any reason to be hopeful?

Since I first came to the South of Spain, back in 2002, the whole area has become more and more dependent on tourism. When I returned after four months of lockdown, just a couple of weeks ago, I was met with two extremes: The airport was literally deserted, and the beaches were more packed than ever. No tourists from abroad meant there was no work and so most hotel and restaurant staff seized the opportunity and got comfortable in the sun. A deserved rest from the pandemic, why not. But you'd think people in charge would realize that it's not a good idea to remain so dependent on only one industry, in this case tourism. Having only one leg to stand on doesn't provide much resilience. And yet, since I got back, I’ve read about plans to convert more natural land into artificial resorts, to build more holiday homes for rich foreigners and to attract even more tourists than before Corona. Life is now changed? Doesn't look like it.

And then there are the masks. And gloves. And individual portions of olive oil in plastic packaging. And plastic cups and forks and knifes and plates and a zillion empty bottles of disinfectant. Forget 5G and Bill Gates, it seems the new Coronavirus was created by Mr and Mrs Plastic!

I'm not against masks. I think some people are going slightly over the top, like that guy my daughter told me about who was swimming with a mask on, fearing he might catch Covid-19 in the sea. But in general, wearing a mask in situations where you can't maintain a distance, like in shops, to me that makes sense. However, why can't we all get reusable masks? And possibly the most important question of all: why do so many people throw their single-use masks and gloves onto the street, onto the beach and into the woods? It makes me wonder whether we, as a human species, are actually still worthy of salvation. Most bacteria seem to have more consciousness and ethics than us lot.

I could continue by mentioning the woman I met the other day, who said she's a great Trump lover and thinks it's a crime that statues of cruel racist colonialists are being torn down. If I erected a three-metre monument of Adolf H. on my terrace in 2020, would I receive angry screams or applause?

So many reasons to get depressed. So many reasons to hide in a hole and forget about salvation.

There's a line in a song by STAY HOMAS, a group that was born during the recent confinement in Barcelona, that really stuck in my head. 'What will happen with the silence once the bells of freedom ring?' Whether you are Pro-Covid or Contra-Covid, perhaps the world would be a better place if we all stayed in lockdown.

I miss the silence.

Thursday, June 4, 2020


Corona crisis. Lockdown. Stranded with my parents, unable to return home. Possibly the worst moment EVER to quit smoking! But that's exactly what I did. And I made a video of it!

When I considered different title options, BREATHLESS was the one I liked best. For a little while I was wondering whether it might be disrespectful to all those people suffering in the ICUs at the moment. But I figured there are far more people who lose their breath through smoking than through a coronavirus, so in the end I stuck with it. Then, two days before I published the video, George Floyd said his last words: I can't breathe.

The year 2020 – BREATHLESS indeed!

And in case that a pandemic and full blown racism don't convince you yet, check out the news (here and here) from the Amazon where record amounts of rainforest are torn down, destroying the lungs of the planet. You might survive Covid-19, you might survive racist violence and you might even survive smoking. But will you survive a world without trees?

What a mess! Let's just hope that our wisdom will grow faster than our destructive madness. In the meantime, here's my little documentary: BREATHLESS - quitting smoking in lockdown

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The answer

So many theories and opinions. So much confusion, conflict and doubt. Who's right, who's wrong? Who can we trust? Where can we find relief and help and perhaps even a little bit of truth?

The answer is simple. It's the most obvious and most logical advice for any type of crisis, be it a relationship crisis or a work crisis, the climate crisis or, in this case, the corona crisis. The words were sent to me by a friend and they're by far the best thing I've read during the last months:

written by Katie LaMonte

If you believe this virus is spread human to human, the antidote is building the immune system with eating plants & natural medicines and sitting in nature alone or with your immediate family, soaking up vitamin D & sunshine.

If you believe that this virus is symptoms of 5G exposure, then the antidote is sitting in nature, connecting to Mother Earth, building your immunity with eating plants and natural medicines - submerge yourself in water & dirt.

If you believe that this is all a hoax and you just need to sit back while Q saves us all, then the answer is sitting in nature, build a garden for the new earth, commune with God, eat plants & natural medicines that strengthen your connection and open your channel to the new earth frequency ~ ascend with her.

If you believe the economy is collapsing, and authoritarian dictatorship is imminent, the most radical thing you can do in protest is build a garden, releasing dependency on the system.

If you believe that Mother Earth is mad at us and purging the human race, the answer is go outside and listen, build a garden, align with her.

The answer is always nature. Always.

We do not have to argue about the why. The antidote is obvious. Alignment with the mother, with our source of nurturance. Remembering everything we use and need comes from her. Give thanks. Humble. Slow down. Observe. Listen.

The answer is always nature.
Nothing more to add.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The story of Miss God

Many people around the globe are struggling with the current lockdown situation. For a writer, however, lots of time spent in quarantine is part of normal life. I hardly go to bars and restaurants anyway; I'm used to being at home for days on end, it kind of comes with the job. But this doesn't mean I can or want to live without having contact to others. Quite contrary, even though it's usually one person who writes a book, most books depend on the input of many others.

Four years ago I stumbled across the ten commandments and wondered why they've never been updated. At the core, they are actually quite useful, but they're hopelessly trapped under a thick layer of dust. 'Thou shalt not...', who speaks in such a weird way today? And besides, why so negative? A bunch of well-meant guidelines that have become rotten rules, totally inappropriate for the modern world. So I thought of a story where God and a young girl meet on a beach and rewrite those old wisdoms.

Three years ago I told my girlfriend Rocío about this idea. She loved it, we talked about it for a while and then life went on and the idea disappeared in my folder of buried possibilities.

Two years ago I contemplated options for a new writing project when my girlfriend brought up the new ten commandments again. 'Why don't you do something with that? I really think it has potential.' I gave it some thought and agreed with her. Yes, it was an idea worth digging out and working on. And so that's what I did.
Back then I was living in a shared house with one of my best friends, Charlotte. One day I was sitting at my desk, pondering on God and Moses, when she came in for a cup of tea. I told her about the basic idea of the book: God is tired of seeing humans screwing up the planet and each other, and so he asks 11-year old Olivia to help him rewrite the ten commandments. 'Why he?' Charlotte asked. 'Why can't God be a woman?'

One year ago I was disillusioned because I couldn't find a publisher for MISS GOD. In Germany, where most of my works are published, I only got rejections. Many publishers liked it, but either it was too religious for them, or too critical of the church. I've never fully understood these reasons, because MISS GOD is neither about religion nor about blame. It's an invitation to believe. In something.

One day ago MISS GOD was released by my English publisher, Ammonite Press. Like me, they felt it's a perfect story for our times. A story about changing old habits and exploring new perceptions. And like me, they just loved the title. Who on Earth wouldn't publish a book called MISS GOD? I'd buy it at first sight!

On page seven, the book is dedicated to Charlotte and Rocío. Without them, MISS GOD wouldn't exist. But there are many others who helped as well: My daughter Paloma, who played the role of real-life Olivia; Roxanne, who did a brilliant job at proofreading my English translation; Jason, who convinced his boss at the publishing house that this could be something special; Kate, whose illustrations have transformed the book beyond special. Plus all the team at Ammonite Press and of course Jane, who, some years ago, had met the owner of the UK publishing house on a plane trip, chatting away and mentioning casually, 'hey, I know a writer...'

I wrote MISS GOD in a self-imposed, solitary lockdown. But underneath the lockdown, invisible to most people's eyes, there was a tight web of meaningful connections. It happens with each writing experience: From the outside, I might seem like an antisocial nerd at times, but on the inside, vital exchanges are happening all the time.

Now you're in lockdown too. A challenging situation, no doubt about it, but also a chance to reflect. A chance to pause, listen and wonder. Why do we fight and destroy so much? Why do we suffer? And why are we here in the first place?

Maybe it's the perfect moment to question your beliefs, while at the same time finding a way to connect to the divine. Maybe it's the perfect moment for an inspiring story. Maybe it's the perfect moment to meet MISS GOD...

Out now as a beautiful hardback and Corona-proof ebook.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Love explosion

My grandmother once told me that she saw Adolf Hitler giving a speech in a big stadium. Sometime in the 1930's, a few years before the war. She had been totally fascinated by him, how he had managed to unite the huge crowd and made everyone cheer. She said she just couldn't have imagined that it all might go horribly wrong. And then it did.

My mother has always lived in a healthy way. Good food, exercise, very few drugs and lots of compassion. Life hasn't always been easy and she hasn't done everything perfectly right, but things seemed to be going well. She never imagined that something could go seriously wrong. And then, two months ago, she was diagnosed with a severe cancer.

In January of this year, around the time my mother heard the bad diagnosis, I read about a virus spreading in China. It seemed far away and I felt it had nothing to do with me. In February I went with my girlfriend to Madrid when the first case of the new coronavirus was detected in the Spanish capital. Still, it seemed pretty irrelevant to my life. I didn't think that it could affect me. A few weeks later, Madrid and the rest of Europe are in lockdown, my Mom is in the high risk group and the world has turned upside down.

Can it get any worse? Oh yes! Just like with the Covid19 situation, the climate crisis is seen by many as unnecessary panic-making too. It's far away, climate activists are called hysterical alarmists and many think it won't really cause them any problems. But just as the virus is growing exponentially right now, the climate problems are growing exponentially as well. And their possible consequences are far worse than what we are experiencing at present with Covid19. That's right, far worse!

I think the real crisis we are facing is a crisis of imagination. It's really difficult to understand exponential growth, what it means when suddenly everything accelerates and spins out of control. Perhaps this current virus crisis can provide some learning. If not, here's a great video by Chris Martenson explaining it: Compounding is the problem 

But the crisis of imagination isn't only about our failure of reading early alarm signs and acting accordingly in order to prevent an apocalypse. There's also a lack of being able to imagine something better. How can we create a healthier world if we don't have any vision of a bright future?

Watching TV and Netflix, warming up precooked food and consuming the art of others are all pleasant pastimes, but none of them really help to develop our imagination. They make us ever more passive and don't lead to creative action. So how can we train our imagination? The answer is simple: by using it.

Read a book. Cook a meal. Paint a picture. Play a song. Invent a game. Write a story. Sit in silence.

All of these things allow your mind to expand, instead of keeping it imprisoned. Opening up to new possibilities, instead of holding on to something that is old and broken and won't last anyway. You don't even need to leave the house to do all this, so maybe right now is a good time to start.

And yes, it's a difficult situation. When you're locked up at home, unable to hug or even see your loved ones, watching the collapse of the economy and feeling the threat of uncertainty, what hope is there? Even worse, you see that we continue talking about money the whole time, and as we're sitting in safe houses with enough food and good internet, we let 20,000 refugees rot on a Greek island. No, not because of Covid19 – we've been already doing this all those years when everything seemed fine. We deserve this crisis. We actually deserve much worse.

In the end, the only hope that is left is the very thing that got us into this mess: exponential growth. Racism, cancer, the virus; greed, selfishness and stupidity – they all exploded. But perhaps love can explode too. Perhaps wisdom and solidarity can also grow exponentially. A utopian dream, but a dream nevertheless.

If not now, when?
If not us, who?

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The relationship between frog eggs and happiness

My 17 year-old daughter showed me her maths homework the other day. It was an A4 sheet with lots of derivations. When I was her age, I did my A-levels in maths and understood all this quite well. Now I look at it and I might as well try and read a Chinese shopping list.

My daughter spends vast amounts of time learning these strange calculations, just as I have done many years ago. Here's the sad thing about it: Seeing her efforts on paper, I told her that I have never ever used any of it since I left school. Not once in 25 years! If I had become an engineer or astrophysicist, it would have been different of course, but how many end up becoming engineers and astrophysicists? In other words: A class of 20 students has to suffer, only because one or two of them might need that stuff for their future careers. Maybe we'd be better off learning things that are actually useful to us, because isn't school supposed to prepare us for life?

Over Christmas I went with my girlfriend to the mountains. When we checked in to our little apartment, the woman of the local holiday flat agency showed us around before asking us to pay. 180 Euros. They had kindly organized some firewood for the chimney, so that was another 7 Euros. She took her phone, opened the calculator app and typed in 180+7. I glanced at my girlfriend, wondering whether it was a joke. “187 please”, the woman said. As we had forgotten the money in the car, the three of us went back to the place where we had left it. We got the money out and were about to pay, when she said that they could also rent us a parking place in a garage. Another 15 Euros. “Fine”, we said and gave her 202 Euros. She started to panic and searched for her phone. Only after checking with her calculator, we were free to go.

Maybe it would be an idea that all students learn to properly calculate 180+7 before they fill their brains with derivations. You know, stuff that everyone needs in life.

Maybe another idea would be to reduce the time spent studying the anatomy of tiny frog eggs and instead start teaching young people about happiness. Because I don't know about you, but to me it seems that the one thing every single person tries to find in life is happiness. Interestingly, at school nobody learns how to do that. Is it surprising then that only few people lead truly happy lives?

Kids study derivations = adults can't count.
Kids study frog eggs = adults are depressed.

In summary: Life is pretty simple. We are the ones who make it complicated.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Learning to dance again

Earlier this month we hosted a 20's Swing party to welcome and celebrate the new decade. Everyone came dressed up in suits and feathers, there were old newspaper articles on the wall and uplifting swing tunes made everybody move. Fun times!

In preparation of the party I had watched some videos of people dancing the Lindy Hop and the Charleston. People from 100 years ago and the people of today. And what struck me most was that they all looked so incredibly happy!

Change of subject (but don't worry, we'll get back to the dancing). One year ago, I wrote a blog post about how evil Amazon is and how I wanted to change my shopping habits. Back then, I promised to reflect on this process one year later, so...

I failed. Not completely and utterly, but there's no point in denying that I bought far too much stuff on Amazon in 2019. Some purchases I can kind of justify (music – so far, I haven't found a good alternative for buying MP3s), others are simply wrong (books!). I used Amazon less often than in 2018, but I haven't reduced it anywhere near as much as I would have liked to. Hence, I still contributed far too much money to a world I don't agree with. My actions have helped to close more independent shops and give more power to an already scary giant. Why didn't I do more?

The main reason is comfort. Yes, it's ridiculously comfortable to shop on Amazon. The same is true for other things – flying is less of a hassle than organizing a long train ride; ready-made-meals are less time-consuming than a home-cooked diet that is healthy for us and our planet. Maybe comfort is what's going to kill us in the end?

I could easily get depressed over my lacking action. I could give up and surrender to the darkness unfolding in front of us – a world with chaotic weather, no fish and artificial trees, and no shops except Amazon. Depressing indeed! What can I do to stop myself from entering this futuristic void?

The answer is 'something'. Ideally, we'd change all of our bad habits right now, but for some strange reason, that's not happening. However, there is a lot of space between 'perfect change' and 'no change'. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

There's this phrase I've heard my Dad say many times, almost like a mantra: “You will never fail as long as you keep trying.” Falling and getting up again. That goes for learning to walk as much as for learning to change bad habits. One step at a time, on and on.

So, I guess my Amazon lesson continues. And in case you’re facing a similar challenge, here's some more inspiration from Kurt Vonnegut:

I tell my wife I'm going out to buy an envelope. “Oh,” she says, “you're not a poor man. You know, why don't you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet?” And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And see some great looking babes. And a fire-engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And I'll ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don't know. The moral of the story is: We're here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, computers will do us out of that. And what the computer people don't realize, or they don't care, is we're dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And it's like we're not supposed to dance at all anymore.
(Kurt Vonnegut – 'A Man Without a Country')