December 22, 2010

A new day

ARIES (March 21-April 19): "There's always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in," wrote novelist Graham Greene. I'll add to that: There are at least three moments in adulthood when a new door opens and invites the rest of the future in. Judging by the astrological omens, I'm guessing that one such breakthrough lies ahead for you in 2011. What can you do to expedite and encourage fate's summons? Here's one possibility: Surrender to the naked truth of what you love.

I have completed my recent journey inward. It has been described as a "surgical operation of the mind", ten days in complete silence, meditating and working on my equanimity and awareness. It has added to my clarity of mind and since I came back my work efficiency has improved greatly. If you wanna know more about what I did on this retreat, you can find some information here.

The reorganization of my life is going on steadily and the date of my journey outward in the world is coming closer. I am giving up the room I have been living in for 5 years now. Very soon I will receive my diploma and will start to apply for jobs. I have started saying goodbye to some dear friends that I won't see as much anymore. And I feel like nothing is clear, but all is well.

December 03, 2010

What should I do with my life II

"Who doesn't feel fearless at twenty-five?
I wasn't afraid. But that brazenness is usually hiding something. [...] My choices were ruled by that fear, but I never would have called it a fear. I would have advertised it as one of the few things that I knew mattered to me. I would have called it self-knowledge. You want to know where your fears are hiding? Tell me what you know about yourself. Tell me what you can't live without.
" p.336 in this book

Almost exactly one year ago I wrote in this blog about the very same topic. The big question of what I should do with my life has not been answered, far from it, but I have been working on it a lot. The renewed dynamic is due to the fact that I just graduated from university. I now have the equivalent of a masters degree in Sociology, with minors in Political Science and Applied Linguistics for Spanish. And yes, it feels fantastic :)

But graduation is not just the ultimate goal, which it has been for the last 5 years. I only just begin confronting the fact that it is much more of a beginning than an end. There are some serious, exciting, crucial decisions to be made. My grades are pretty great. My chances at a good job are definitely above average. My life is orderly and controlled and safe. I have a strong supportive net of family and friends. Nothing can go wrong. This is what I know about myself. Now tell me what my biggest fear is.

But it's not just about the scary momentary insecurity in my life. It's about the opportunity of it all. Soon I will go traveling. Both inside myself and outside in the world. I feel the need to challenge myself again. I would like to find new ways to prove myself other than by academic standards. I will force myself to plan a little less, even if it is just temporary. What I hope to accomplish is a new, a better me. If that new me writes a blog, you will read about it here! Love and success to all of you!

October 14, 2010

There'll be sun sun sun

Oh, well, in five years time we could be walking round a zoo
With the sun shining down over me and you
And there'll be love in the body's of the elephants too
I'll put my hands over your eyes,
but you'll peek through

And there'll be sun, sun, sun
All over our faces.
And sun, sun, sun
All on our bodies.
There'll be sun, sun, sun
All down my neck.
And sun, sun, sun
So, what the heck.

‘cause i'll be laughing at all your silly little jokes
And we'll be laughing about how we used to smoke
All those stupid little cigarretes and drink stupid wine
‘cause it's what we needed to have a good time

But it was fun, fun, fun
When we were drinking.
It was fun, fun, fun
When we were drunk.
And it was fun, fun, fun
When we were laughing.
It was fun, fun, fun
Oh, it was fun.

Oh, well, i look at you and say: “it's the happiest that i've ever been”
And i'll say: “i no longer feel i have to be james dean”
And you say: “yeah, and i feel pretty happy too,
and i'm always pretty happy when i'm just kicking back with you”

And there'll be love, love, love
All through our body's.
Love, love, love
All through our minds.
And it'd be love, love, love
All over her face.
And love, love, love
All over mine.

And i'll remember all these moments suggesting my head
I'll be thinking about them when im lying in bed.
And i know that immediately they might not even come true,
But in my mind i'm having a pretty good time with you

Five years time
I might not know you
Five years time
We might not speak
And five years time
We might not get along
Five years time
You might just prove me wrong

Oh, there'll be love, love, love
Wherever you go
There'll be love, love, love

September 07, 2010


ARIES (March 21-April 19): My friend Alana suffered from a mysterious ailment for months. Symptoms included vertigo, stomach pains, and numbness in her legs. After being treated unsuccessfully by six health care practitioners, both mainstream and alternative, she went to see Dr. Ling, a Chinese herbalist recommended by a friend. Ling was a dour woman who made no eye contact. Her office was dingy, cramped, and windowless. Alana felt a bit depressed by the visit. Yet when she took Dr. Ling's herbs, she felt better. In three weeks she was cured. The moral of the story, Aries: The restorative agent you need may not come in the most inviting form.

Three weeks from now, my final exams begin. I have been stringing along a lot of necessary preparations, studying on and off for some time and without great impulse. I know that even without the best preparation I won't fail completely, but I won't be satisfied with the results. Everybody who talks to me these days, please give me a guilty conscience for not studying hard enough. I will need it to make this work! Strange how my motivation works! Obviously what I need is not coming in a very inviting form, but I know I will feel better come December...

August 23, 2010

Words to live by

On this day, you read something that moved you and made you realise there were no more fears to fear. No tears to cry. No head to hang in shame. That every time you thought you’d offended someone, it was all just in your head and really, they love you with all their heart and nothing will ever change that. That everyone and everything lives on inside you. That that doesn’t make any of it any less real.

That soft touches will change you and stay with you longer than hard ones.

That being alone means you’re free. That old lovers miss you and new lovers want you and the one you’re with is the one you’re meant to be with. That the tingles running down your arms are angel feathers and they whisper in your ear, constantly, if you choose to hear them. That everything you want to happen, will happen, if you decide you want it enough. That every time you think a sad thought, you can think a happy one instead.

That you control that completely.

That the people who make you laugh are more beautiful than beautiful people. That you laugh more than you cry. That crying is good for you. That the people you hate wish you would stop and you do too.

That your friends are reflections of the best parts of you. That you are more than the sum total of the things you know and how you react to them. That dancing is sometimes more important than listening to the music.

That the most embarrassing, awkward moments of your life are only remembered by you and no one else. That no one judges you when you walk into a room and all they really want to know, is if you’re judging them. That what you make and what you do with your time is more important than you’ll ever fathom and should be treated as such. That the difference between a job and art is passion. That neither defines who you are. That talking to strangers is how you make friends.

That bad days end but a smile can go around the world. That life contradicts itself, constantly. That that’s why it’s worth living.

That the difference between pain and love is time. That love is only as real as you want it to be. That if you feel good, you look good but it doesn’t always work the other way around.

That the sun will rise each day and it’s up to you each day if you match it. That nothing matters up until this point. That what you decide now, in this moment, will change the future. Forever. That rain is beautiful.

And so are you.

(I am very thankful to the poet who created this and gave it to the world through this blog)

August 16, 2010

From my travels - London

So the last week was spent in London visiting friends and enjoying a little vacation time away from university. It's been very relaxing and real feel-good experience. My hosts here introduced me to a whole range of vegetarian meat substitutes that are really hard to find in Germany. Combined with the organic vegetables coming to their doorstep every week I was in culinary paradise :) As always the chats with my friend, solving riddles from simple logic to world politics have filled me with renewed motivation for studies and life. Seeing him prepare for a long stay in Africa has made me want to apply for volunteer work in the developing world as well. I know it will happen! Good times!

Apart from this nice home I shared I was also lucky to see the musical "Phantom of the Opera" and a great performance show called "Stomp", where a crew of eight give you a rhythmical massage and make you laugh. If you ever come to London, don't let the opportunity go by and spend at least one evening with the singers, actors and musicians. Always works to make me happy :)

For now it's back to work. Find me in the library, if you need me...

August 03, 2010

Next stage

So I handed in my final paper in sociology. Eighty-seven pages filled with insight on how social movements and the new technologies interact and where modern research is still lacking. The result is satisfying, at least in my eyes (advisors take their time). Now I can concentrate on the next stage, the final exams, that will complete my studies. In 3 months time I am graduating from university having reached the equivalent of what would be called a masters degree in the rest of the world.

So thoughts have started about what to do next. The rest of the world is where my attention is directed. I wanna get out there, do things, solve problems, meet interesting people and contribute to projects for the betterment of humanity. A broad vision, and one shared by many. Yet on how to put it into practice? Suggestions and job offers are welcome :)

During a quick brainstorming I can come up with a whole bunch of options. Should I become an interpreter for Portuguese or Spanish and go to Lisbon for a masters program? Would I be happy building houses in Peru or Ecuador for a development project? Maybe some internship at an international organization is more interesting and offers more perspective. Or is academia not so wrong for me after all, like in a doctorate in the United States or here in Germany? And what about that firm I am going to found with a friend? Is it going anywhere?

Quote found at Fanoos.

During these phases of insecurity in the face of life decisions, I try to look back as well as forward. In the past many decisions weren't active decisions at all. Some were made for me, not by anyone else, but simply by the lack of better options. Sometimes my vision changed when I found myself in different circumstances than I had planned. So with the confidence that looking back on today in ten years, I will be happy with my decision, I go ahead and just do the best I can!

August 01, 2010

How to be alone

It's been a while since I last posted something on here. There will be an explanation for that in the next post, so this one is reserved for another topic, one very dear to me.
Many people I have met feel the urge to always be among people. As a social person I get this feeling, too. The emptiness inside, the notion of drifting, fear of being abandoned, if one does not live up to the expectations of others to get back to them in emails or phone calls. Yes, I understand, but yet I have trained myself to be alone some times. If you have planned an evening by the lake and all the friends you've invited now have other plans, go anyway. I am happier that way.
So when I found this very original piece of art by Tanya Davis I was moved by the eloquence with which she expresses this way of life. Enjoy in silence and (preferably) alone!

May 18, 2010

Mental Health Break

For the last weeks and some more weeks to come, I have been quite busy with my graduation thesis. Days in the library, meeting with the advisor, talking about it with friends, my life has begun to turn its focus on my studies completely. So to prevent burnout I spent this weekend doing Aikido and took an exam for another kind of graduation. I earned my blue belt (2nd kyu) and am allowed to feel a little proud of myself. Everyone needs to experience some success to keep going! So there, while I return to my daily routine I would like to share this absolutely adorable video with you! Enjoy :)

Meet the sloths from Amphibian Avenger on Vimeo.

This mental health break is sponsored by The Amphibian Avenger. Watch it and be happy!

May 11, 2010

On connection

I recently read the book Connected - The surprising power of our social networks by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler. They have, through many years of research come to scientifically explain some of our vague common knowledge about how human networks function. They go so far as to call these networks human superorganisms because of the way they are intradependent and persistent over time.
I am particularly interested in the topic due to my own research and my own hypotheses about social change. One fact stated by Christakis in the 18-minute speech he gave to TED below is intuitively clear to all of us: "Obesity is not a unicentric epidemic. There is not a patient zero of the obesity epidemic, and there was no spread of obesity out from him. It's a multicentric epidemic. Lots of people are doing things at the same time."
I consider this to be a fundamental fact in all kinds of change at a societal level, meaning people living under basically the same living conditions. Humans are have certain choices how they react to their circumstances and the sum of their choices create social change. In the face of political problems that means they can either conform or protest and thus a protest movement is not going to come from one source alone, but from many sources at once which occasionally might join forces.

April 22, 2010

On social movements

For my thesis I have been doing reading in social movements and different models of explaining what makes it probable that a common social or political interest transforms into a wave of activity from people with different backgrounds. So to give you a snippet of what I am up to these days, here are some of the ideas I have come across:

Some researchers think it's social structure that has the most influence on whether a movement takes off. Think of a society with a lot of young academic people when a lot of structural change is going on. People moving to the cities, new industries growing and modernizing media can all contribute to the surge of movements because change is 'in the air'.
Then there are constructivists that say it's all about how you frame the situation to help a movement grow. If you find a way to credibly explain to the public that the circumstances they are living in are unjust and inacceptable, that there is a certain reason for it and that you know how it can all be helped, over time you are sure to find followers.
And some say that it's all a matter of how the political opportunities are structured. Different authors lay emphasis on what has the most influence, but overall they consider the political system (democratic, open or closed, pluralistic or not) and how well you are connected to the people in power as crucial factors.

For my paper I am focusing on what the internet has changed or is going to change with respect to how a movement is created. More and more people are informed and connected to the neverending stream of information. I myself feed it with this post. Does it make a real difference, except that some things go faster than before? Is the internet actually furthering democracy? Well, if I had the answers to those questions yet, I would probably not be posting it here first, but I might let you know as soon as I have more insights to offer :)

So I will leave you with your own thoughts and a short and interesting video to illustrate what makes a movement from the most practical perspective :)

April 19, 2010

Muere lentamente

Muere Lentamente
Pablo Neruda

Muere lentamente quien se transforma en esclavo del hábito,
repitiendo todos los días los mismos trayectos, quien no cambia de marca,
no arriesga vestir un color nuevo y no le habla a quien no conoce.

Muere lentamente quien evita una pasión,
quien prefiere el negro sobre blanco y los puntos sobre las "íes" a un remolino de emociones, justamente las que rescatan el brillo de los ojos, sonrisas de los bostezos, corazones a los tropiezos y sentimientos.

Muere lentamente quien no voltea la mesa cuando está infeliz en el trabajo,
quien no arriesga lo cierto por lo incierto para ir detrás de un sueño,
quien no se permite por lo menos una vez en la vida, huir de los consejos sensatos.

Muere lentamente quien no viaja,
quien no lee,
quien no oye música,
quien no encuentra gracia en sí mismo.

Muere lentamente quien destruye su amor propio,
quien no se deja ayudar.

Muere lentamente, quien pasa los días quejándose de su mala suerte o de la lluvia incesante.

Muere lentamente, quien abandona un proyecto antes de iniciarlo, no preguntando de un asunto que desconoce o no respondiendo cuando le indagan sobre algo que sabe.

Evitemos la muerte en suaves cuotas, recordando siempre que estar vivo exige un esfuerzo mucho mayor que el simple hecho de respirar.

Solamente la ardiente paciencia hará que conquistemos una espléndida felicidad.

(here an English version, hat tip to Daisy for linking it)

April 17, 2010

Noch drei Monate

...Klausur für Klausur ist es immer dasselbe, bis sich dieses Verhalten bei Facharbeitsabgabe wirklich zu einem ernstzunehmenden Problem entwickelt...Die 8 Phasen der Klausur- bzw. Facharbeitsvorbereitung:

1. Die Diesmal-beginne-ich-rechtzeitig-Phase. Am Anfang der Planung sind alle Kollegiaten ziemlich optimistisch. Immerhin besteht die Aussicht, dass mensch wenigstens dieses Mal auf sinnvolle und systematische Weise arbeitet. Obwohl er um keinen Preis der Welt bereit ist gleich an die Arbeit zu gehen, rechnet der Kollegiat in dieser Phase fest damit, dass der Arbeitswahn irgendwann spontan über ihn kommt.

2. Die Ich-werde-gleich-was-tun-Phase Der Zeitpunkt für einen wirklich frühzeitigen Beginn ist nun verstrichen. Parallel dazu wird der Druck, anzufangen intensiver. Aber die Deadline ist noch nicht in Sicht. Gleich geht's los.

3. Die Was-soll-ich-nur-tun-wenn-ich-jetzt-nichts-tue-Phase Während die Zeit ungenutzt dahinzieht, hat sich die Frage eines rechtzeitigen Beginns endgültig erledigt. Diese Hoffnung ist dahin - dafür kommen Visionen. Der Kollegiat malt sich aus, wie es wäre, wenn die Facharbeit über Nacht verschoben würde, ohne dass irgendwer gemerkt hätte, dass er schon wieder nicht in die Hufe gekommen ist. Er beruhigt sich mit der Vorstellung, in mörderischen Nachtschichten alles bisher Versäumte nachzuholen - demnächst! Er entwickelt eine komplizierte Ausreden-Logistik.

Trotzdem: Noch könnte er die Facharbeit stressfrei abschließen.

4. Die Ich-tue-jetzt-was-anderes-Phase Kollegiaten beginnen in diesem Stadium mit hektischen Aktivitäten, die alles Mögliche betreffen, nur nicht die Vorbereitung. Sie setzen Alle ihre angesammelten Kräfte daran, den Schreibtisch endlich vollständig Zu säubern. Sie nehmen sich längst abgelegter Arbeiten an. Sie füllen Ihre Zeit mit Dingen, die ihnen wirklich unangenehm sind - bloß, um die Facharbeit zu verdrängen.

5. Die Ich-hab'-auch-ein-Recht-auf-Freizeit-Phase Der Emotionshaushalt des Kollegiaten ist nun äußerst fragil. Einerseits ist es ihm gelungen, sich selbst zu belügen. Andererseits wachsen die Schwierigkeiten bezüglich der Niederschrift mit jeder Stunde. In dieser Phase neigt der Kollegiat zu tollkühnem Eskapismus: Angesichts all der Anforderungen, die an ihn gestellt werden, manifestiert sich nun das Gefühl, mindestens einmal ein Recht auf Freizeit und Vergnügen zu haben. Die Facharbeit, redet er sich ein, ist bloß ein Klacks, wenn er sich vorher erstmals was gönnen kann.

6. Die Es-ist-immer-noch-etwas-Zeit-Phase Obwohl er sich nach diesen Vergnügungen schuldig fühlt, und obwohl ihm Der Boden jetzt jeden Moment unter den Füssen wegzubrechen droht, setzt der Kollegiat immer noch auf Zeit.

Er ist allerdings sicher, dass er Demnächst in einen geradezu tierischen Arbeitsrausch verfallen wird. Jetzt Konzentriert er sich darauf, Zwischenergebnisse vorzutäuschen. "Ja, ja, ich bin mittendrin.." ist in dieser Phase sein Standardsatz.

Nebenfronten werden eröffnet. "Ich bin gerade auf einen interessanten Aspekt gestoßen..", versucht er den Mit-Kollegiaten weiszumachen.

7. Die Mit-mir-stimmt-etwas-nicht-Phase Gleichzeitig plumpst er jetzt in tiefe Depressionen. Die Fachabeitsabgabe ist zum Greifen nahe - aber unser Kollegiat hat so gut wie nichts in der Hand. Selbstvorwürfe und Selbstzweifel holen ihn ein. Er ist überzeugt, dass ihm einfach fehlt, was alle anderen aufweisen können: Disziplin, Organisationstalent, Durchaltevermögen.

8. Der Showdown - Die panische Phase beginnt. Der Druck ist so groß, dass er es nicht mehr aushält, auch nur eine einzige weitere Sekunde auf Kosten der Vorbereitung zu verlieren.

Sämtliche Fremdeinflüsse werden ausgeschaltet. Der Kollegiat wäscht sich nicht mehr, verweigert die Nahrungsaufnahme, meidet die Wirtschaften und unterdrückt den Pinkelzwang. Ohne Wenn und Aber wirft er sich jetzt in die Schlacht. Energiehormone werden in Extradosierungen ausgeschüttet. Die Arbeit geht voran. Die Gewissheit, die Facharbeit doch noch fristgerecht und vollendet abgeben zu können ist da. Die Arbeit ist schwierig und schmerzhaft - dennoch gerät der Kollegiat nun in die euphorische Phase. Es ist genau dieser Rausch, den er eigentlich sucht. Das Gefühl, es gerade noch einmal zu schaffen. Dazu das Bewusstsein, in Besitz von Riesenkräften zu sein: Seht, das Ergebnis ist gar nicht so schlecht!

Erst recht, wenn man bedenkt, dass keine Zeit mehr war.

April 14, 2010

100th post

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Photons work hard to get from the heart of the sun to the surface. They can take up to 160,000 years to complete the 400,000+-mile journey. And yet once Earth-bound photons get topside, they travel the 93-million-mile distance to our planet in just over eight minutes. I foresee a metaphorically similar situation unfolding in your life in the coming weeks. A development that has been a long time in the making will accelerate tremendously in its last phase of ripening.

Today my new (thesis themed) lifestyle choices come into effect. I have been travelling and catching my breath before this task ahead and I feel ready to get some structure into my daily life. Today is a day full of energy, people want the best for me and wish me success with what I am doing and where I am going on my journey. I am grateful and will try to remind myself of that every once in a while.

Let me return you some of that positive energy and wish you all the best for my 25th birthday :)

April 02, 2010

De vuelta

I am on my way back home. In Lisbon I fell sick one day before I had planned to leave. So I spent the day - instead of sightseeing outside - in bed, or rather between the bathroom and my bed. Lucky guy that I am, I had made friends with a German couple of my age who were well equipped with travel medicine and helped me out when I was feeling the worst. Thanks again Michel and Alex!
Now, few days later I have my old strength back and am enjoying the company of good friends from my time in Spain. My Chinese flat mate from back then cheered me up when the procession of the Semana Santa in Jaén had to be canceled because of the miserable weather and now I am in Ciudad Real.
It's my first time to really get to know La Mancha, land of Don Quijote, where he fought windmills. Yesterday I got a great tour of the nearby National Park "Tablas de Daimiel" by a colleague of my friend here. Our guide was so well informed it was a wonder he had never studied for this, but I guess 49 years living in the area and loving this place more than anything made him the perfect expert to follow.
The last weeks have been so dense with experience that I can't imagine how it all fit into so few days. I feel so fulfilled and contented that I can feel no regret to return home and let it all rest in me and nourish me during the paper writing that lies ahead. Taste for the good life, I can live it no other way :)

March 25, 2010

O caminho a Lisboa

Yes, I am in Lisbon :)
Because of my lack of internet access, mobile phone (and utter lack of further motivation to do anything more than the necessary about either of those problems) I have found me a nice hostel for the time of my stay here. It's the Alfama Patio Hostel, a very nice and cosy place near the medieval castle. Tonight a Portuguese girl is cooking for the 15 guests and staff currently staying here and later there will be a "fado tour". I hope to get a good impression of this town by taking some program offers.

The way here was a bit stressful, although teh Portuguese have been helpful on every step of the way. My language skills are obviously fine, because I already made friends with a nice police officer studying in Bragança. We shared a room at the youth hostel and he spoke no other languages. He even offered to help me out should I run into any kind of trouble on my trip.

But the only thing that was a bit troublesome was the weather. First though I quickly visited O Porto and found a youth hostel full of noisy school kids in Coimbra. Coimbra is a university town, but should be called "town university" because the city center is literally the university district and students rule the place, with a party for the "caloiros" (freshmen) in the central park and all.

And last night I stayed at a camp site in Santa Cruz, a really pretty beach near Torres Vedras about an hour from Lisbon. I was pointed to Torres Vedras by my Portuguese teacher and wanted to see the place. I was not steered wrong. For the first time in Portugal, after the short stopovers and the stress, I felt relaxed. I wandered around in town and later on the beach and slept a little on the benches carved in the rocks on the shore. Wind was strong and the sun kept showing and hiding, but I was not worried when I set up my tent. It was only later that night, at half past one, when I was woken because the wind pressed the tent in my face ;-) Gladly there was little rain and I was able to put the car as a windshield. After reassuring myself that I would not be blown away in my sleep, I put in ear plugs again and slep soundly :)

These are my adventures so far. Hope you all are well! Boa noite!

March 22, 2010

Quick travel update

I am currently sitting in an internet café in Oviedo and will later travel on to O Porto, Portugal. I spent the last week hiking and camping in the great Picos de Europa National Park with a long time friend who returned today. We had a wonderful time:
- weather of all kinds (rain and strong wind while walking over snow fields covering the path; torrential rain at night; strong spring sun and warm evenings)
- all from no to the greates view of all (dense fog in which we got lost for an hour -fortunately there was a big group nearby which we rescued eventually- and 360º panorama of surrounding mountains)
- a lot of animal sightings (cows ringing bells all night long, sheep and goats, as well as huge birds of prey sitting on rocks and crossing the valley above and below us)

I however have two more weeks of travelling before me. Seeing friends and making new ones. It has all gotten so much more difficult to organize since my phone battery died a sudden death and left me without phone numbers or any means to contact anyone quickly (which also messes up my couchsurfing plans). I also left my laptop at home in an attempt to live less digital for three weeks only to discover again that I depend on it in some respects (no ways of using free wifi at the mall for example).

Well, this is it for now. Life is good and the Iberian Peninsula has me back once more. If I remember my camera next time there will be some fotos :) Have a great week everbody!

February 28, 2010

Symphony of Science

I like this initiative to promote science in a musical way a lot. It's creative and quite beautiful! It's also a homage to Carl Sagan who really believed when he said that "if we do not destroy ourselves we will one day venture to the stars". I like the thought and it gives all our human existence such perspective. Let's not destroy ourselves :) I wish everyone a great week!

February 22, 2010

February 16, 2010


No need to say anymore here. Just know that I have the happiest of smiles for all you amazing and unique people out there :D
And thanks to the wonderful Kurt Kuenne who made this short film!

January 31, 2010

Think better of humans!

My idea of man has always been somewhat more positive than that of the many people I encounter. Most have resigned in the face of seeing business leaders corrupted while politicians are appealing continually to citizens' self interest when talking tax cuts. Even educational institutions promote themselves by bragging about how they give their graduates the best chances to come out ahead of others.

Selfishness seems to lie at the root of human behavior and yet I doubt this seeming no-brainer when I look around at the people in my immediate proximity. My friends and family and also wider social network is based on people helping each other out. There are connections made that often come about in conversations ("you know who could help you with that? My friend X. I'll give you his email" OR "well, you should have talked to me sooner, I have been doing this paper on exactly what you are starting to investigate.").

Sometimes I doubt whether my world is just too secluded and safe to be compared to the world average. There is always a chance you are naive and overly trusting. But then there are scientists that come to my help and I highly recommend you read this text by psychology professor Dacher Keltner. It might just give you back some hope in the human race :) Enjoy The Compassionate Instinct!

January 29, 2010

Civil Society 2.0

This short documentary talks about how the big public protest marches and the so called Strike for Education came about. It was the new media combined with spontaneous crowds with a common interest à la flashmob. Being one of many and still having a say is a powerful experience and genuinely democratic, unlike the kind of representative democracy we are finding ourselves governed by in Germany. It has made me think about whether this kind of international protest could have happened in pre-internet times. Is it a question of scale or is there a whole different sort of interaction at work?


If you stumble around the internet these days, you come across many stories that fall in the categories "reflection on technological advancement" or "analysis of the impact of social media". And being part of this whole new sphere of human existence has inspired me to research it for my thesis by which I hope to earn my degree as a sociologist.

It's so interesting to me how many people still mostly ignore (as do most conservative politicians) the force that is the interconnectedness and evergrowing communication between individuals. In 10 or 20 years time I expect for the digital divide to close significantly. If we succeed in defending net neutrality against some corporate interests, we will soon feel the power of the opinions of millions of Africans, Asians and South Americans that so far have a lot less voice in the global discussion (much like at the WTO).

So expect to hear more about this part of my life in 2010 :)

Weird or just different?

Obviously I haven't been very active, blog-wise, in the last few weeks, so I am going to post twice today to make up for it :)

I just saw this great video. It's funny and at the same time makes a very important point which I think is relevant to all aspects of life.

So try out the lesson learned from the clip "The opposite may also be true" and then assess your political, ideological, religious or opinions about the right lifestyle.

If you are like me (and most other people in my experience) you probably think that you are quite right in what you assume about the world. In fact most of your knowledge is never ever questioned. As soon as you have made yourself an opinion, you regard that as the viewpoint from which all other opinions are to be judged.
But what if you're wrong? What if you dismiss a correct or equally (!) correct notion, just because you limited your mind - unconsciously or consciously - to what you hold to be possible.

Personally I take from this a reminder not to be judgemental and act from a position of not wanting to destroy others' opinions. Instead I try questioning all of them, first of all my own. The openness that comes with this approach hopefully makes me a lot less prone to conflict. (And what if the opposite of that is also true?)