21 Nov On the hunt for the good life and other luxury problems.
What is it, “the good life”? Scientist agree that the question can not be answered in a generalized way – the personal preferences, talents and interests are too varied. This consensus contradicts the sociologist Hartmut Rosa. His core thesis: If we want to find a way out of the acceleration trap, we have to talk about the good life.
You are individual. Like everyone in Berlin.
I sit in a coffee bar and drink coffee. That’s what you do in Berlin. A man comes up to me. He is wearing an old denim jacket, pants torn and has a mohawk. He asks me if I have 50 cents for him. I am searching in my pocket. I actually have 50 cents. I give it to him. He then gives me three 10 cent pieces and a 20 cent piece. I look a bit confused. I did not expect that. Why? There are 3 reasons for this:
- The man looks a bit grubby: black denim jacket, Iroquois cut, worn sneaker. That must be a homeless man, I think.
- His phrase “Do you have 50 cents?” led me to conclude that his intention is not to change small change.
- Because I obviously belong to the kind of person who is influenced by the external appearance of other people and makes hasty judgments. I am ashamed a little.
Last reason made me think. After three years in Berlin, 26 turmeric lattes and 80 yoga sessions, have I also become the victim of the urban hipster bubble? Am I also one of the people who think: “You are so individual.” ? Like everyone in Berlin.
Looking away is like looking, just more extreme.
Yesterday, a young couple argues loudly in the U6. The guy pushes his girlfriend roughly against the glass. Both are obviously drunk. I look around. Nobody seems to notice the conversation. At least, I conclude, since the manic stare on displays has become widely known as a social code for “do not talk to me” or “I’m not getting anything”. Also works whenever a homeless man wants to sell a magazine from homeless people, a musician trio miserably plays the first 12 bars of “Hit the road Jack” or just somewhere a fight is about to start. Quickly type something very important in the smartphone, then everyone knows that you are indisposed. I always imagine people just pretending to be busy setting their alarm clock, typing something meaningless in the keyboard, or reading the last chat on WhatsApp. How could people travel by subway, where there was no display as a flight from reality without being labeled as anti-social fellow citizens? I put forward a hypothesis: they were just nicer and more social because they had to.
Some people ask themselves, “Was that all? Could there be something better.”
This question is not only prominent in dating everyday life in Berlin. When shopping, we have to choose between 38 shampoo varieties and at the Humboldt University in Berlin, there are 223 study programs. The mass of options seems to be the poster child for a new era. That does not feel like settling. With my parents it was different: fewer opportunities, more real problems. To ask about the meaning of life remains a luxury reserved for us “millennials”, i guess. I’m not sure if that’s good as well. In the post-war period, the purpose of life was to fill your tummy with something eatable. The luxury of allowing oneself to ask, “What am I in the world for?” Did not occur there. Is it boredom that makes us doubt our existence? “If it starts to bore you, you should do something different with your life” – or something like that tries media to tell us.
Our program for expanding world reach
As Generation Y we have the world at our feet. It has never been so easy and cheap to travel. Lonely Planet and its Internet offer leave little room for adventure and dangerous expeditions, as known from the 1965 National Geographic. As backpackers we hunt from hostel to hostel, the more countries and stamps in the passport, the better – the perfect sunset for Facebook and the Insta story. Because without it makes no sense. Globehopping instead of Globetrotting.
The whole program for world reach expansion is a never-ending upward spiral. As toddlers, we discover the world around us on foot, the range is limited. First, we explore the playground around the corner, later by bike the forest on the outskirts and then at 16 with the moped to a soccer game in the neighboring village. And so on and on … For Hartmut Rosa in this spiral, the world relationship of the individual is decisive: does it resonate or is it alienated in a repellent, dumb world? It is precisely this fact that he criticizes in our educational system, which is characterized by economic time compression and outdated curricula. Educational institutions are focused on competence building, but no promotion of world relations. In a nutshell: As a German I’m learning English to open up the English world. For the winners in this system, the resonance field widens, for the losers it comes to alienation.
Do you think, the world is expecting something different from you?
Most want to do something important in their lives. And then there is this gap: science, religion and medicine provide many answers. But not answers to everything: What is the meaning of life? What are we here for? How much is the fish? Some fill this gap with a child, an expensive sports car, an even more expensive hobby or a spiritual world trip. Maybe it’s not about having a plan in the end. Life does not stick to it anyways. I would wish that we no longer live in a society in which a 55-year-old man has to say: “Only 10 more years of working, then my life can really start.”
Man, come down.
Let’s face it, we all create our relevance and authorization to exist as we like it. Be it self-staging, narcissism or the pure urge for recognition: Man is a being of nature and is influenced in his actions by multiple natural processes. Sometimes it really pays to be grateful for the things you already have. We should not have to travel the world to appreciate the privilege of home, democracy and security. It would be a good start to
- not take yourself so seriously.
- show gratitude for little things.
- never lose curiosity – because without it the learning process stops.
- allow mistakes and make mistakes.
- learn to love yourself.
Photo: Luca Bravo – unsplash