third healthy breakfast, first long sleep

Noon, afternoon or evening departure time, I tried them all and the slash of jet lag hits me well into the third night. Early mornings in Japan are fortunately not short of possibilities for the sleepless traveler. Five in the morning the onsen opens for a long morning warming bath and an occasional grooming. A place one can visit in style wearing the hotel emblazoned complimentary pajamas.

At a quarter to seven the Japanese breakfast room is open to a slow moving line of early guests that fill their trays with a healthy, if not conventional to the western eye, assortment of vegetables, cold fish, soup and rice.

Slowly the day grows old and the eyelids heavy in the early afternoon hours. The sugary Japanese coffee, courtesy of a state-of-the-art automatic dispenser won’t help either. My head feels numb, senses dampen. I cannot tell from what direction sounds reach me.

the stone and the rope

visiting an art exposition is an event that often struck something hidden in the back of our minds. Things are shaken that normally lie back dormant in a quiet pool. This time was a paintings exposition by Gabriele Münter in the Lenbachhaus art gallery in Munich.

The progressive theme-sorted display of paintings makes me reckon how much iteration, experimentation and discovery is visible behind those works. Makes me imagine how exciting a life of devotion to art can be, yet surely not exempt of hardships. Or for that matter, a life devoted to writing, or photographing or any creative undertaking.

At some point one ends reflecting on himself. “And how well I fare in this sense?” To come to maybe saddening thoughts. Thoughts of one’s own creativity being crippled by the almost unmovable machinery of industry and corporations. One would wish that one’s life would be like Gabriele’s—a continuous slope of experimentation and learning and of improvement of one’s work and the enhancement of coworkers and the world around. However often one sits on a nimble boat over fetid waters of politics and power-grabbing, a place where creativity would be rather seen as something that could go wrong and topple the statu-quo.

One would have a vision of corporations as rotting in the inside, not visible immediately but crumbling in the long run. We often see this increasing gap in creativity when we do travel from the splash of new ideas in the internet economy with the somber rudeness of corporation processes and tools. Sometimes we ever manage to put some patches but still the core is old and crumbling. Generation changes are too spaced. Fear of failure is deep rooted hence not trying is better than failing. Willing to ignore that failing is the antechamber of success. All for the short term. Now and here. This month, this quarter, just this status report.

“Let’s solve this now, and later we will think of a better solution. “ how often we hear those words. And we know that the truth behind them is that there will never be a later and that we will be again in the same situation in the near future, with only the old yellowing and cracking solution of old at hand. A thin sheet of gloom tell us that the next time we will be in a yet more precarious situation and that the old solution may not be enough this time.

Would be too easy to put all the blame on those who have to take decisions. Even if their own lack of imagination will doom entire teams or divisions, they are only the result of an industrial policy with a deep reformation announced one century ago and well due now. Erich Fromm confirms the common traits of the predicaments of the humanists of the beginning of the nineteenth century:

  • the need to aim the industry for the good of humankind instead of for its own sake,
  • to account for the environment in the industrial exploitation of resources,
  • that solidarity should prevail among people,
  • that the aim of any activity must be oriented to maximize the well-being of humankind,
  • that not maximum consumption but reasonable consumption is desirable
  • and ultimately that the individual needs to feel a contributor to the whole.

These, ring today with ever more remarkable actuality and urgency.

the new lords of the new world

Back in the nineties, unchecked by most, Google and Amazon started to be. At the turn of the century, Facebook and Twitter became the place to hang out for a new generation of people. Those were among the first companies who took the potential of internet and rethought the way we researched information, shop, kept in contact with each other and shared news. And this, on its own, became a breakthrough of innovation that changed the way we lived.

Yet a huge social change was about to occur, that no one would have imagined. Despised by most, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007. Shortly after, Samsung followed suit with Google’s Android OS. A paradigm change happened that expanded like a wildfire over the US and Europe and fueled those very same Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter who moved over their platforms to this new category of personal computers. And the world changed, for ever.

At a point, those internet companies became advertising moguls, the day after they became a political issue. An issue of such size that neither the young and talented Silicon Valley nor the political class in the capitals could even imagine how to tackle. The former because of lack of political knowledge and expertise, the later because of lack of understanding what those platforms were and meant.

Here we are, we people, navigating a world that suddenly blew up in size and complexity. Even if our political class is catching up, we are now living times of wilderness. Millions of people are devoting hours every day working for internet platforms without knowing it. By tagging pictures in Instagram, giving up our business network to LinkedIn, or giving out our most inner thoughts to Google search or our most private conversations to Facebook. We have given so much private information to Google and Facebook that they stopped being interested on harvesting any more of it.

Millions of people are confused with the late affluence of news outlets and lost their judgement about what to read, what is right and what is questionable. And dark agents are operating in social media targeting people one by one to change their perception of the reality.

to be or to have

What do I want? I want to be happy. Fair enough. To be happy I need things. Yet my ultimate purpose is to BE happy and not to HAVE things. So far so good.

To BE happy I need first and foremost a healthy body upon I can live. I can be happy in an unhealthy or mangled body but it is much harder. Thus I need to HAVE the first thing. If I am lucky enough to have been born in a healthy body, now I just need to keep it healthy. And if not, I have to learn to BE with what I got and try to improve it if possible. For all purposes, the body is the first and most important THING I need to BE happy.

To keep a healthy body I need once more to have things. Possibly the most urgent and important, I need to procure my body with good nutrients (not antibiotics-infested meet grown in a farm I do not dare even imagine if I want to keep myself in a state of ignorant bliss-sanity). To procure good nutrients to my body I need to either grow them myself or buy them with money. Hence now I need to HAVE land and/or money. Secondly, I need shelter; a healthy space, dry, illuminated, spacious enough and protected from cold or hot weather. I need a medical insurance. Ultimately, to be able to HAVE all of this, I practically need to HAVE money.

Unless I am born in a rich family, I need to become somebody if I want to be able to HAVE money. I need to become useful to the society and through my usefulness seek a way to acquire money. Hence my task to BE happy is usually surrogated primarily to becoming useful to the society. And here I may get already lost in the way and forget the purpose of the trip.

Now that I have and can keep a healthy body, and if I didn’t get lost on the way, I need to figure out what do I want to do with it that would enable me to BE happy. I need now a purpose. But the purpose would be meaningless if it would only become the act of HAVING things. I need to BECOME someone. And here again I can easily get once more lost. And I haven’t yet started walking my path to happiness.