Category Archives: Culture

Analyze me.

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Today, I figured something out. Which is quite impressive as it is only 10:06 AM and I have  had six hours of less or more good sleep last night.

While I was carrying a massive load of stuff into my office (I can’t wait for all the finance-y stuff to be done with so I can get a desktop PC for the office!), I suddenly thought of something: every week, on Monday I splurge myself with fancy coffee, lunch, or something else actually not necessary.

Being the social-science-philosophy-weird-thinking nerd I am sometimes, I immediately asked myself why and found a simple, yet profound answer: I have an addiction to spending money. This is probably not something uncommon. Most people like to spend money, especially on things they “pamper” themselves with – things not necessary that feel wonderful though. It’s a rush that is only accelerated by today’s consumption society.

Yet, I figured that now that I acknowledged the fact, I will be able to put a stop  to it. Not right away (I am having fancy coffee because the lack of sleep from last night will otherwise show in about 30 minutes), but slowly, but surely.

Also, I made a commitment to being not only physically, but even more so soul-y healthy. I wanna get back on the yoga mat, get an hour of swimming into my schedule here and there and take long walks in the park or woods with the June Bug. All this in a quest to become who I was and who I still think I am deep inside myself, but the “me” that has been buried by pregnancy, childbirth, being a single mum, starting a business, living in a place where the members of “my tribe” seem to hide pretty well.

I am starting today, Monday, October 8th, 2012. Wish me luck (or better, willpower)!

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On personal life.

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Last week, I had the biggest argument I’ve had in the past two years. One of the issues brought up by the other person was that I invade their personal life and that it is not something I should or was permitted to care or make my opinion known about. You have to know that I am rather closely related to the person saying this. As you can tell, I am rather occupied by the thought of this statement which is why I now will babble on about the definition and – more importantly – meaning of “personal life”.

So, here are the questions (I never just stick to one, do I?): What does personal life mean? Is there a definition that counts for everyone or should you be allowed to decide what it is? Is someone’s personal life always the same thing in regards to that person? Or can you change it around just so it fits your current situation?

When looking up “personal life” on Google (kids, this is not something you should do when home alone; have an adult with you at all times), the first page on the list was (what else…) Wikipedia. Here is what I found on their page on personal life:

“In modern times, many people have come to think of their personal lives as separate from their work.[11] Work and recreation are distinct; one is either on the job or not, and the transition is abrupt. Employees have certain hours they are bound to work, and work during recreational time is rare. This may be related to the continuing specialization of jobs and the demand for increased efficiency, both at work and at home. The common phrase “Work hard, play hard” illustrates this mindset. There is a growing trend, however, toward living more holistically and minimizing such rigid distinctions between work and play, in order to achieve an “appropriate” work–life balance.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_life#Sociology, 2/29/2012)

Now, that is pretty much what I understood of the term which leads me to think that I can’t be way off topic when talking to any random person about this. This, in turn, means that the person I had this argument with must be pretty much going off their own path with this one. This, I think, is not generally a problem, but if you live in close proximity and your relationship with said person is close in an emotional way as well, I do think that this inevitably leads to problems.

And that, it has. Definitely. Terribly. Horribly. In frank speech: big-ass problems. And meanwhile big asses are not a bad thing (more of the opposite, see Sir Mix-A-Lot), an argument like the one from the other week is. For me anyway. Not because it riles me up emotionally which it did for a week or so (that’s when I wrote that first paragraph), but because in cases like this I feel like I need to take action.

And the only effective action to deal with someone like this person and something like this situation is to cut ties and move on to a better life with more understanding people who are on the same page as I. Which I did. As sad as it is.

Who do you think I am?

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A big part of my life these days is characterized by the pursuit of a balance between my German and American self. Recently, I have found that much of what Germany means to me, I detest. I also realized that many people who have not lived here all their life and then went abroad, only see good things here.

So I started wondering what others see in this place that my filters block out, what they see that is beauty that I cannot see anymore. To hopefully be reminded of some of the wonderful things this country and its people can be, I am therefore asking you to send me a list or story or poem or picture or whatever you feel shows your feelings towards Germany, your perception of what Germany and who the German people are. I will be glad to receive your “images” via email at freidenkerin@live.com or on facebook, twitter, etc.

Please do pass this on to those you think have something to say about it!! Thank you!

 

Oh, I forgot to give you an incentive, right?! Well, here it goes: A velvet coffee mug by Kahla Porcelain, a porcelain manufacture just around the corner from my hometown will go to a randomly chosen winner. Entries must be received by February 14, 2012, 11.59 PM GMT+1.

Fashion and Me

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Well, after a half-successful, half-tormenting shopping trip today, I have been a little ambivalent on the fashion trends this season. Fittingly, I then see this totally over-the-edge Burberry commercial on Hulu and I have an epiphany: The only sense in fashion you can see is the sense that you give it. Just like with life.

Let me explain this: If I meet people like few of my friends or relatives who are seriously interested in what women’s magazines portray as the latest trends in fashion, I often either get stuck on the prices of the designer fashion often featured in those magazines or I wonder who ever would think that they’re pretty. After a few years chasing after those trends, but never really matching any of the pictures in the magazines I used to read, I decided that it has to be enough and started wearing what made me feel good and comfortable.

Today, when I saw a completely over-sophisticated Burberry Commercial on Hulu, I had a thought though: maybe fashion can only mean what we let it. To me, fashion is a representation of my self (and myself), it should match the personality my filters let me think I have. It should not, however, represent what some hot-shot designer thinks looks good on women.

Surprisingly, this sense of fashion always was deep within me which caused me to admire the dress (and personalities) of women and men who actually used fashion in a sense that agreed with my (inner) understanding of fashion. Today, I still love when people make of fashion who they are: People who wear what is considered hideous with confidence and thus make it look good just as much as those who make every new fashion trend look good on their bodies.

What I cannot stand until this day though is a miserable application of fashion magazine photos. So, ladies AND gentlemen, please do think about whether that skirt, those shorts, or that whole ensemble you’re wearing in the fitting room or in front of your bedroom mirror is you or just a cheap copy of what Vogue shows you should be wearing.

What we need to change

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On another note, I have had a very bright and wonderful, yet very short conversation with a Greek friend of mine today. We were talking about how Greece needs a radical change – just as the rest of the world. I think the age of the 21st century is doomed. The world needs to start of into a new venture, a new age of a new philosophy in living.

It is not something we cannot do. Humanity has done it before – multiple times. We (Europeans) have broken out of the Dark Ages to come into Renaissance and start something completely new. Asia is still reinventing itself as a continent of progress and spearheading in development of ever-new tools to make life easier.

So, as a species capable of totally revamping everything that comes our way (even DNA and atoms), we should be thinking about how we can make this life worth living for ourselves. Selfish, you say? I say not.

Or do you feel happy and accomplished when you know that this second thousands of people may be dying because of hunger, preventable illnesses, and other things that make life miserable for another human being? I don’t.

Well, one interesting bit of the conversation my Greek friend (doesn’t this sound so cool?!) and I had was that he was talking about new leaders cheering us on. I immediately said that I think the age of leaders is over. I called the term leader to be “90s Harvard business school” like. He laughed at this and said that he meant they should be leaders to cheer us on to change things, the way we live, fate, or whatever you think needs changing. But I still believe that the idea of a leader showing the way is a wrong concept in this context.

In this time and age (sounds boring, I know), we are used to a decentralized life. We watch TV in our kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, sometimes even the living room. We tweet while we’re surrounded by people in the subway to tell the friends we have all over the world that the Starbucks guy messed up our latte this morning. We blog for people we don’t know hoping to have one or two readers who agree with the nonsense that goes on in our heads. We buy stuff online and offline, we need a phone to be happy (yes, I am getting a new one soon!), we read books on a machine that looks like a book instead of going to the library or a book club.

All these things aren’t bad or good. They just are the way things are. But we do have to be aware of how things are to be successful in changing them to a new (maybe even better) way of being. Now the question is, how do you go about changing things in a decentralized world? Well, in history it has proven to be clever to use existing infrastructure to bring down a system. Which means the best way to change the existing system is to work change through it – decentralized.

This means using social media, protests such as the once for “Occupy [insert city here]”, word of mouth, totally chaotic, random, insane actions to bring about the change humanity needs. This also calls for a non-utilization of leaders. Because leaders mean order – the order of leader and following, the one and the crowd – and in this case we need chaos much more than anything. Chaos brings about beauty. It makes us think outside the box and reorganize everything we once knew.

We don’t need leaders, we need chaos.

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Being foreign.

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So, July is almost half-way through and I haven’t written anything. But, I have been thinking about how it feels to be foreign to something. It doesn’t matter what you think about here, e.g. a country, a culture, kind of animal or plant, relationship, landscape, a language, kind of music or food, way of thinking, concept of dealing with money, laws, etc.

There are so many things in which we can be new to something. Yet, we humans try to get to know everything that is in close proximity to our life’s focal point and once we have a certain familiarity level reached, we stop exploring what is there and feel “satisfaction”. What is it with that?

Very soon after my return to Germany, I decided to tackle my personal dissatisfaction with the life I live here by going abroad again. This time, I figured, I would do it all right and plan ahead, find a job somewhere, a house, insurance, a car, etc. and then move. I don’t mean that in the past I have done it all wrong, I just wanna do it all right this time. Not to mention that I have a baby on board this time which makes it even more important to figure most technical details out before I go.

But let’s get back on topic here: why do I want to go? I have been asked by a number of people now (preferable those who spend two weeks vacation time abroad every year, but have never lived abroad) what makes me so eager to leave this country again when I have just returned. Here is what I think is the answer:

For starters, I have not been eager to live here in the first place and if some things would have gone differently last year, I would still be living in the “holy land” (Mansfield, PA, that is, haha) with Lily and be happy.

But what is more important and what I have come to discover to be real reason for my being drawn to foreign lands is that I love to be a foreigner. It is that easy. I love the feeling of not knowing exactly what to expect, how people react to my personality and my way of thinking, finding out new things about all those things listed above and getting to know them. It is really fascinating to me having to figure out something I don’t know about. I just love that kind of life. Other people who are like me travel the world by bike, go into the jungle to discover new plant species, or in past time, have traveled cross-country in the then Wild West . I don’t meant to put myself at the same level at those people. I am certainly no explorer. But I am pretty sure that these people have about the same feeling about what they do that I have when I go abroad.

Now, what I have been thinking about the past week or so, is how it is that I am like this. Surely, there are many people of my kind in this world, some I have had the chance to get to know in the past years. But not all people are like me, that is for sure. I don’t know a lot here in Germany, that is even more sure. Here is what I have come up with: I am an explorer by type.

Helen Fisher, a world known biological anthropologist (need I say that I rocked in all of my Anthropology classes in college), has divided all of humanity into four types of personality. Despite the fact that she uses these types to explain relationship behavior and (non-)success with them, I like to say that my type – namely, explorer – causes me to be able to feel so comfortable in situations that are not familiar to me at all.

Now that the riddle of future traveling and living abroad extravaganza is solved, what does this leave me with? Well, only with the security of knowing that this may be just the way life should be lived – for me.

Long story – short

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Good thing I checked Twitter before going to bed! Kath posted something about 750words.com there which made me get my enthusiasm for writing back.

I realized that this site is a very good tool to get away from shortening everything. We use apostrophes and slang in writing like the whole world functions on 160 (or 140 now, my Twitter friends) characters. When you try to reach a goal of writing 750 words a day after you carried around your eight and a half week old baby all day, you surely develop the urge to write out every single word. Not to fool anyone because really no one cares what you write and the only person fooled if you cheat is you, but because you do not want to end up at 734 words and not have anything to say anymore.

Somehow, it becomes important that you do this, that you reach 750 words. Why? So you can prove to yourself that you can reach a randomly set goal? A goal that you did not set, but a person (half-way around the world) that you do not even know? I think we feel challenged by goals that others create for us. When you set a certain goal for yourself, it is easy to make excuses because the only person you have to respond to is yourself. You know yourself best, so you will find the best excuse to not reach the goal that still lets you look in the mirror the next morning. When someone else set that goal – even though you may have never met that person – you will feel responsible not to disappoint them. It does not seem to matter whether you would actually disappoint them or not. Just knowing that there is a possibility that you disappoint someone else but you who maybe will not let your excuse count, will make you do the work and try your best to reach the goal.

I find this to be a very interesting mechanism. It works for me. Funny enough though that it only works if I think that the person setting the goal would be worth my respect, friendship, that I look up to them, or whatever else you may call it. If I think of someone as a person that will not be able to relate to me, shares my view on life, my interests, philosophy, I will not care to reach the goal they are setting.

Here is a simple example: When a child goes to school, all kinds of people set goals for them, politicians and educational experts set goals for what the child should have learned at what time, teachers set goals in terms of which work should be done when in order to reach the goals set before by politicians and experts. In textbooks, authors have set goals as to what knowledge should be gained after working through each chapter. And so on…

What will make the child want to reach these goals? As for the goals set by politicians and experts, I do not think any child could be made to care unless their mum or dad is one of said politicians or experts. As for the teachers’ goals, the child needs to have some respect for that person as well as feel that they act to bring the child forward, not to just check off a point on their things-to-teach list for that school year. And the textbooks? Personally, I have never in the slightest way felt inclined to take the goals proclaimed in the content section of any textbook seriously. Not sure why, but the reasons to this I will have to examine later on as either Lily is going to wake up from the sound of me typing or my eyes will shut because they hurt so bad.