Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The perfect village

Strangely enough, there were even lonely people amidst the masses.
(The Little Buddha)

Next year around this time we will count seven billion people on planet Earth. 7 billion! That’s a lot of people!
With the world getting that busy
, you would think that we are moving closer together. Well, physically we do. But emotionally? We have incredible communication systems, but do we feel connected? Are emails and skype chats enough to satisfy our emotional needs?
For me, sometimes they are. But most
of the time they’re not. I always call it the curse of globalisation: Having great friends all around the world, but not being able to popp by for a cup of tea. And it’s not only friends. Families are spread out thousands of kilometres apart. Sharing life in the traditional way becomes difficult that way. Sharing those special moments that make us feel happy human beings. Because for these, we need humans. A computer screen doesn’t do it.

I live in the countryside, five minutes away from a small village. I have a garden, orange and walnut trees and plenty of space. I can put the music as loud as I want, pretty much whenever I want. There are some friends around and I know the names of my neighbours and of the guy I buy my flour from. So far so good. But – and of course there is a but – the village is of the villagers. It doesn’t feel like my village.
Not long ago I was walking with a frie
nd through his hometown, and he greeted an old teacher. For me that was a really nice example of community. Of being connected with those around you. I know that unless I move back to my hometown I won’t be able to experience the same. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss it.
Of all the people I know, maybe 10% live within a fifty kilometre radius. 10% is better than nothing, sure. But it really sucks not having the other 90% closer! Sometimes I wish I could get all the people I love to live together in one area. But unfortunately that’s impossible. No matter where I go.

You could say that all this is my personal issue, because I live alone in the countryside. And yes, sitting by myself in an empty house in the winter can be quite depressing. But really I don’t think it’s only me. Almost everybody I talk to is looking for a place where they might be able to settle down. A place to slow down, live, share, create, maybe even grow old. A perfect village. And while there are many different factors at play, in the end it’s always a question about people: Where can I find enough friends to feel at home?

I guess one solution would be to become really rich, buy a big plot of land and get everybody there. Once my book is a bestseller I might come back to this option. In the meantime: What to do?
Another possibility would be to move back home. Home in the sense of ‘where I grew up’. Problem is, who is left there? Almost everybody has moved somewhere. So unless lots of others would go back as well, it wouldn’t be an improvem
ent. That leaves us with two options: Going to look for that ideal place somewhere, or staying where you are and create it. Searching or settling. Giving up or trying. Starting something new or recycling the old.

I feel that whatever we choose, the challenge is to (re)connect with those who live around us. To create meaningful relationships in a sea of seven billion. To build communities. To make friends.
If nothing else we need to be hopeful. Maybe one day we are living together in that perfect village. Or we will have created lots of perfect vill
ages all around the globe. Just like in the old days. A real community. Where you can meet your best friends for a chat any time.
Not on facebook.
But offlin
e!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Time

"Time is what keeps everything from happening at once” (Ray Cummings)

Today I spent a few hours in a bookshop at the aiport in Málaga, signing copies of THE LITTLE BUDDHA. In between I was reading in some of the magazines that were on sale in the shop. At some point I was flicking through the english GQ magazine. It’s crap, I know. Anyway, what struck me was 1) the amount of advertisement for a magazine that costs 6 Euros, and 2) the kind of products advertised. I ended up counting some of them. What do you think is the product that is by far the most advertised one, in a ‘cool’ man magazine, in the december issue? No, not cars. Not snowboards either. Watches!

I counted only full page (A4) ads. In the first 30 pages there were 13 only about watches. That’s almost half! Next in line? Perfume, with 7 out of 30. The whole magazine counts 336 pages, of which there are 36 full-page watch advertisments.
Where on earth does the male fascination for watches come from? Everybody has a mobile phone nowdays – some people have even two or three – and every mobile phone displays the time. So does this mean that all these guys wear all those expensive watches only to show off?
Nothing but jewellery? Or maybe it’s some kind of code, to demonstrate that you are ticking right...

Most philosophies talk about the importante of the Now, of living in the present. Yet it seems that the world over people are madly obsessed with a fashionable device that distracts the owner from the present moment. A device that puts life in chronological order.

Yet isn’t that what it’s all about, that everything is happening at once?

Right now.










From THE LITTLE BUDDHA - "The man without time",
© Rosie May Harrison


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Uprising

Revolution – latin revolutio – “a turn around”

A fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.

During the past week, two events took place. The first was an unexpected strike of the flight controllers in Spain, resulting in the whole spanish airspace being closed for one a day. Chaos, as you would imagine when lots of people who want to travel somewhere get all stuck at the same time in the same place. To resolve the issue, the spanish government declared a state of emergency over the whole country. This is the first time this has happened in 30 years. Basically, it puts the country under military control, similar to a state of war where you have to follow the orders from above.

It goes without saying that the controllers are greedy bastards, how can you dare to be unhappy earning 200.000 Euros per year in a time of severe economic crisis?! However, something else has struck me even more: 2000 flight controllers were able to cause a country of 40 million people being put under a state of emergency. Quite an extreme response I find, makes me wonder what they’d do if there is a real problem one day... It looks like the government is getting increasingly nervous and is starting to loose control. Quickly.

The other ‘event’ that was all over the media last week was the Wikileaks drama. What happened? Some internal embassy information got published and all those who are in power cried out with indignation, determined to stop similar actions from happening in the future. Sorry, but who talked again about transparency? Right, the politicians. I really hope that Wikileaks will continue to publish all these hidden documents, because there is absolutely no reason why our governments should have secrets from us. None.

In both cases, the spanish flight controllers strike and the Wikileaks publications, relatively few people have caused a huge uproar, shaking the foundations of a badly build palace. There are many more examples of people and independent organisations who stand up to the big system, and every day there are more. Thanks to the kindness of Google, Skype & Co words are spreading like wildfire nowadays, and so the stories go round the globe in no time. While institutions are starting to crumble, more and more people realize that we are heading in the wrong direction, that it’s time to turn around, time to change the mess we are in. A movement in acceleration. More and more, until a thousand spears will bring down the giant.

The Right of Revolution, a philosophy going back to ancient China, is the right or duty of the subjects of a nation to overthrow a government that acts against their common interests.

Keeping secret information from us is not in the common interest.
Keeping corrupt banks alive with our money is not in the common interest.
Keeping a system that serves few and harms many is not in the common interest.

Power to the people!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The will to love

I assume most of you are familiar with the following situation: Sunday morning, after a late night out, the head is throbbing with pain and you wonder how long you can control the feeling of nausea before you have to rush off to the toilet. Hangover time! The thought of never ever drinking alcohol again, or at least not for a quite a while, is very appealing. An easy decision, so it seems. A little bit of fun for so much suffering just isn’t worth it!
Then comes the afternoon, nausea goes, the headache eases, and latest by early evening I start wondering, ‘just a little Brandy to go to sleep...’

Alcohol excess is only one example of course. Any drug, bad eating habbits, lacking exercise, stopping with the crap we don’t want in our lifes and starting with the things we always wanted to do. Why is change so difficult? Or why do we make it so difficult?

As a human species, we have the tendency to wait until change is not a free choice any more, but a necessity. Number One reason for giving up smoking? When the doctor tells you it’s a matter of ‘quit or die’. Well, I suppose some people decide, at least subconsciously, to die but for the vast mayority option two is not really an option. Hence there is no choice.
The big question is, when is the tipping point? When does choice turn into no-choice? It almost seems that we enjoy gambling with this uncertainty. Why leaving my comfort zone now if I can still change at a later time? The problem is of course that not knowing where the edge is, it is possible that we fall over. When we suddenly realise that we must change, we already missed the turning. Too late! And as individuals, society and as the whole world, can we really affort to wait until it is too late?

Yesterday I had a discussion with a good friend about what is actually needed to make change happen. Soon we arrived at two ingredients, discipline and will.
Discipline is a mental act. I force myself to do something, whether I like it or not. Will, on the other hand, seems to be more rooted in the emotions. Why? Well, at first I was wondering about that as well. Thinking about it though, to have will, to really want something, requires a very strong motivation. ‘I am going to get really fit because I have always dreamt of hiking in the himalayas.’ No motivation, no will.
The quality of the motivation is determined by emotions. The stronger I feel that I want to fulfill my dream of hiking in the himalayas, the better is my motivation. And the better my motivation, the more powerful my will. So yes Charlotte, I give you that one. My will is powered by my emotions.

Another friend of mine, Don Jose, has told me recently in another discussion that ‘once there is true understanding, discipline is not needed any more.’ Instead of suffering the mental agony of doing something we don’t feel like doing, with true understanding, change becomes effortless. And true understanding has to take place in both mind and heart. Otherwise, if my mind understands something but my heart doesn’t, emotionally I might not have any good reasons to change. I feel frustrated, and angry, and depressed, and then I get the cigarettes out, or the chocolate, or I stay in front of the TV instead of going for a walk or work in the garden.

A different example: We all know that most of the coffee market is controlled by huge profit-driven corporations, with desastrous consequences for the small coffee bean farmers in South America and Africa. Still we buy and drink the same coffee as always. Why is that? Maybe because we only half understand the issue. Mentally, yes. But do we understand the whole situation emotionally? Do we feel the injustice? Injustice that we feed with our actions. Do we feel the anxiety of the farmer, who has to struggle daily to survive, not being able to send his kids to school, no perspective for the future? Just because we don’t want to pay a fair price for a cup of coffee. Feeling the whole dilemma, surely we’d think twice before buying the cheap Lidl coffee, or Nescafé, or from any of the other big players who give a shit about values outside of their bank account.

There are many more examples. The point is, we need to sort out our emotions. To find out how we really feel. And how we make others feel. To find ways of expressing our anger and frustration, making room for a better feeling. Like love for instance. Shouldn’t that be motivation enough?

Changing our bad habits by loving ourselves.
And changing the world by loving others.

So forget about discpline. Find the will to love!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Journey to the green island - England 2010

And the clock keeps ticking... Unless you are somewhere in the southern hemisphere, winter is approaching. I got a good taste of this during my recent 2-week trip through England. Although I hate to admit it, the sun definitely helps to keep that smile on your face...

I hadn’t been back to England for almost 4 years. Some people I met asked me what I thought had changed. Well, the weather seems to be the same, sorry. Otherwise the main thing I noticed is an increasing level of control. There are cameras almost everywhere, Big Brother is zooming in, checking on you wherever you go. I guess it’s supposed to create more security. My feeling, however, is that it does very little to increase security, but instead taking away a sense of freedom that is irreplaceable. Do we really need to pay somebody to control every one of our moves? It seems like more and more we prefer to trust in cameras rather than in our fellow human beings. I wonder whether this is really healthy in the longterm. Straight into Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”…

Apart from catching up with good friends, the main reason for my England trip was the promotion of THE LITTLE BUDDHA, my recently published book (www.thelittlebuddha.net). All in all I am very happy how things went, thanks again for everybody who has helped! THE LITTLE BUDDHA is now available in Maidstone (Kent), Brighton, Exeter, Glastonbury and London. Of course it is also availabe online on Amazon. However, while travelling around I had to witness the same drama that is unfolding in pretty much all of the world, at least the western, ‘civilized’ world: The independent bookshop is disappearing fast, a dying breed on the road to extinction. There are lots of towns which don’t even have a bookshop anymore. Sad but true. Now, I am not saying that I don’t buy stuff on Amazon. I do, and it’s very easy and comfortable. But walking into a proper bookshop, being able to actually see, to pick up and even smell books, that’s something very different to clicking twice and waiting for the postman. I’d hate having to tell my grandchildren one day about the experience of buying a book in a bookshop, without them being able to try it for themselves. So, please, whenever you can, support independent bookshops! And independent record shops, clothes shops, markets, etc. The beauty of life is its diversity!

The last days of my trip I spent mainly in London. Uufff, I have no idea how you can live there. Honestly. So many people, so much traffic, so much consumption. One thing I constantly wondered was where all the rubbish goes every day. So much rubbish!! London is definitely not on the top ten list of sustainable cities…

Most of the time I actually spent underground, getting round on the tube. And down there I was confronted with what seems to be a general problem in life: Most things are not designed by those who use it! The tube, the London subway, carries millions of people every day, and average travelling times must be at least 30min, often much longer. Yet there are no toilets, nowhere! Not on the tube, not near the platforms, and not even in the stations. The amount of times I almost pissed myself last week was not normal… And as top engineers and town planners usually travel by taxi or chauffeur, it’s unlikely that anything is going to change anytime soon. I was told that on weekend nights, people actually start to piss in the tube. Public transport is getting more attractive by the minute.

But then there is of course also the other side of London, the reason why it attracts so many people from all over the world: Culture! Whether it’s concerts, theatre, cinema, museums, there is something really good going on all the time.

During my stay I was lucky to attend two great events. One was the premiere of STAFF BENDA BILILI at the London Film Festival 2010. It’s a moving story of a group of handicapped musicians in the Kongo, documenting their path from the early rehearsals on the dirty and dangerous streets of an african slum to the recording of an album and the subsequent, hugely successful european festival tour. A film about hope and the importance of never giving up, of having a dream that is more powerful than all the shit that life might throw at you. I think it’s out in February 2011. The brilliant CD is already available now, just search for ‘Staff Benda Bilili’.

The second cultural treat was a fantastic concert by the great MANU CHAO. In contrast to the profit-orientated, billion-dollar music industry, Manu Chao played for free at an event of a Columbian art charity. The entrance fee went to charity and venue. It feels so good to see when music is about music, and not about making money. So respect to Mr Chao, and a great thank you for a great gig! Go and see him if you ever feel like jumping for two hours…

Back in Andalucía, I continue smiling with the help of the warm autumn sun. Yet I also feel melancholy creeping in, for many problems in Spain and the world in general are getting worse and worse. Pollution, poverty, injustice, natural disasters, illness and unhappiness, they all keep on growing and growing. And worst of all, ignorance seems to grow as well. While it might be comforting to close the eyes for a while and simply ignore what is going on, it doesn’t actually change anything. As Manu Chao puts it, “This world go crazy, it’s an emergency!”

There are huge challenges ahead of us, really really big challenges. The media might say otherwise, but of course, as long as economic interests decide what’s on the news, the truth remains inconvenient and is thus covered under lots of layers of totally useless information. So how to change if we don’t know where to start? Personally, I think the best thing we can do is to be open rather than closed and ignorant. And especially we need stay flexible, and to prepare ourselves mentally that the next decade will be very different from the last one. And then to embrace change, to see opportunities in whatever comes our way. It might not always be easy and fun, but it definitely won’t get boring. We are up for an exciting ride. A good time to be on planet EARTH!

Be happy!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Impressum

Claus Mikosch
Morjansbusch 49a
41239 Mönchengladbach
Germany

Email: info (at) clausmikosch (dot) com
Tel: +49-176-99106762