Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A growing storm

We were sitting on the beach, resting after a game of frisbee. My 15-year old daughter let the sand run through her fingers, her breathing was calm. “The next crisis is coming”, she said and looked up to the blue horizon. No sign of pessimism. No drama, no fear, no holding on. Her beautiful brown eyes filled with nothing but realism.

The last few months I've been following very closely what's happening in our beloved financial system. The last time I've done this was in 2009, just AFTER the economic crash of 2008. This time I want to get informed BEFORE the crash.

I'm sitting on the train while writing these lines and have just finished flicking through the Sunday paper. Shares and bonds continue to be regarded as safe investments, the real estate market is booming. “10 years after the burst of the housing bubble new records are made again.” Good times for everyone who's happy to get into debt. The question is: How long will it last?

The experts I read and watch – like Chris Martenson, Mike Maloney (who gave talks in 2005 warning about the housing bubble, three years before it burst) and others – they all agree on two things. 1) It's very difficult to predict WHEN the next financial crash will hit us, and 2) it is absolutely certain that it WILL hit us. Some say possibly this year, others in two or three years. Either way, it won't be very long. Mike Maloney calls it the 'Everything bubble' – stocks, bonds and real estate, already now they're all hopelessly inflated. Never before have so many people and countries been in so much debt and still everything is done so that the spending party can go on. In an apparent attempt to stabilize the system, the central banks keep creating money out of thin air and pump billions of dollars into the markets. A bit like trying to put out a burning house with buckets of petrol.

There's more to look forward to, like the retirement of the Baby Boomers which might trigger the collapse of the pension systems, or the millions of jobs that will be killed by digitalization and automation within the next decade, or the environmental armageddon unfolding on planet Earth. But for now let's stay with the smouldering debt fire.

If a massive financial crisis is indeed inevitable, as many confess and logic suggests, well, what to do? In the long-term a new economic system will bring more joy and justice to the world but the short-term ride could well be a bumpy one. Here are a few things that might make the transition easier:

  • Accept what is and don't deny reality. Better to see what's coming than being surprised and paralysed by shock.
  • If somehow possible, get rid of your debt and avoid making new debt. I know this is much easier said than done for many of you, but still, it's worth aiming for a debt-free existence. Especially in times of crisis.
  • If you have savings, consider transferring some of them to the oldest and most crisis-proof currency there is: gold and silver. As a little bonus, both these precious metals are very undervalued right now so you might even come out better on the other side. Who knows...
  • Keep some food, water and drugs nearby. And friends. Friends are super important when the world goes nuts.
  • If you have space for plants, take up gardening. Apart from giving you some food to eat it's also a haven for peaceful disconnection. When I have my hands in the soil I never worry about this crazy world. I just am.
  • Last but not least: Don't blindly trust what you read in the news (any news!) or from bloggers like me who spend too much time on youtube. There is an abundance of misguidance out there. Be open and curious and learn to trust your own experiences!

What remains is the question why my daughter 'knows' that a crisis is coming. Well, luckily she has a History teacher who seems reasonably switched on. And it is history that clearly shows that all empires have ended, that greedy growth can't last forever. No rocket science needed. It's just the way it is.

The dark clouds are getting darker. If you look closely, you can see the storm already raging. It will bring thunder and lightning and many will get soaked in cold rain. But then, afterwards, everything will be clean and calm again. At least for a little while...

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Shakespeare was right

All day I was waiting for an email.
It never came.
Now what?

I really wanted sunny weather on Sunday.
Got disappointed.
Non-stop rain and my plans all drowned.

'That party will be the best one ever.'
It turned out different.
Tremendously boring and me feeling agitated.

I was hoping the new shoes would make me happy.
They did, but only for a little while.
Back to emptiness.

I was convinced to meet my perfect match.
I was wrong.
Now lonelier than ever.

Shakespeare once said, 'expectations are the root of all heartache'.
He was right.
They're killers of magic!

Friday, January 19, 2018

The bus stop

A common situation
You missed the bus by two minutes.
You sit in a bar waiting for a friend.
Your plane is delayed by half an hour.

What we tend to do today
Get the phone and check whatsapp. Briefly look up, then check facebook. And twitter. Look up again. Check emails. Scroll through instagram. Drink some water. Answer a whatsapp message. Check the weather report. Check whatsapp again. Consider to change the profile photo. Put away the phone, look around, sigh, panic and grab the phone again.

What we used to do
Reflect on a recent experience. Talk to a stranger. Read a book. Admire the clouds. Compose a song. Paint a picture. Feel the sun on the skin. Close our eyes. Dream. Remember a sweet kiss. Find a solution for a business problem. Brainstorm a new idea. Sit in silence. Watch other people. Wonder about the universe. Enjoy a moment of peace. Embrace solitude.

The verdict
No, not everything used to be better. But likewise, today not everything is good.
There's a space between black and white, between old and new. Find it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Religion vs Faith

Most people don't choose their religion. If your parents are catholic, you become catholic; if your parents are Muslim, you become a Muslim; and if your parents are screwed up hippies, you probably become a Buddhist. It's like in football – usually you follow the same team as your Dad.

Ultimately, to me religions are like clubs where people with similar interests and beliefs come together. Like a sport club, or a science group, or a women circle. People sharing passions and history. And it feels good to share. To not feel so alone in this lonely life.

The problem with religion is that it's too strongly linked with faith. Faith provides comfort and hope and, most importantly, it soothes the fear of the biggest unknown there is, death. Take this away, or threaten to take this away with criticism, and people react as if their survival was in danger. 

However, all the wars fought over faith and all the ongoing religious conflicts are completely unnecessary because your faith is yours. No one could ever take it away from you. It's a direct, vertical connection between you and that entity called God. Religion, on the other hand, is a horizontal connection between people.

Unfortunately, in our world, past and present, there's always been far too much concern with religion and far too little focus on faith. Maybe the reason for this is because the cultivation of faith is a road of great solitude. Nobody else can walk your walk, no one can tell you what's right or what's wrong. It's just you and the big cosmos of possibilities. And unlike religion, where you can blindly follow others, faith requires you to make choices by following your very own heart.

At the end of the day it doesn't matter what you call your God – Lord, Allah, Krishna, Nature or Love. And even if you choose Nothingness as your God, that's fine too. I do think though that death is less scary and life is more meaningful if you believe in something more than mere emptiness. When there's a feeling that you're part of something bigger. Something sacred. Something that helps you to trust.

The moment you die, religion won't help you. On your journey to the other side you won't be accompanied by neither friends nor priests, and you won't be able to take any holy books either. It will be just you. You and whatever you believe in.  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Let's get radical

Recently a few people called me RADICAL which I perceived as an insult. Then a good friend explained to me what radical really means... Now I want to be more radical.

In everyday use, a radical person is associated with disobedience, extremism and violence. It's someone who is not good for society, someone who is dangerous. But in truth? Another word that has been misused...

rӑk-әl – from Late Latin radicalis (“of or pertaining to the root, having roots”); from Latin radix (“root”). Meaning “going to the origin, essential”.

On Wikipedia, the adjective radical is described as “favouring fundamental change, or change at the root cause of a matter”. Isn't this exactly what is missing in the world? Change at the deepest possible level!

We have come to a point in time where using common sense, speaking factual truths and asking honest questions have been deemed radical behaviour. While in turn, manipulation, thoughtlessness and dishonesty is often rewarded and rules the day.” (Gary Hopkins)

Plenty of good things are happening but on the whole our system is seriously sick. It's a system that allows war and starvation instead of choosing peace and food for all. A corrupt system that is destroying the planet and distracting us with commercials and dividing politics from the fact that we, the citizens of the Earth, are actually committing suicide. A sad ending for humanity is unfolding on the horizon of tomorrow. It's there, right in front of your eyes. You just have to look.

If we're honest most people are ill too. Some more, some less, but few can be called sane and wise and healthy inside out. We're functioning and getting by but we've long stopped living in true harmony with nature – and with ourselves. So much dissatisfaction, fear and hatefulness; so little love, kindness and understanding. And those moments of feeling alive and blissful and connected to everything, shouldn't there be many more of them?

Antonyms for radical: ignorable, trivial

Ignorance and superficiality won't help us to live in peace, nor will they make us truly happy or help us to survive. We need awareness and depth! And since being radical means exactly that – to look deep within and finding the real cause of our problems – the thing we all ought to do is to become more radical. To listen to the heart, rise up and change everything for the better.

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.
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.