Sunday, February 24, 2013

Between Reality And Wonderland


The other day Lisa invited a bunch of friends including me to watch a video she had just finished editing.  The 55 minute film turned out to be a creative documentation of seven months in late 2011 and early 2012 during which Lisa and 21 other artists developed and finally performed live a circus piece called "reALICE".

"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" was the main theme of the acts and they depicted Alice in her old age: a woman who gets lost in weird memories full of whirling contradictions, disoriented thoughts, acrobatic banalities, enlightening darkness and sounds that drip of poetry.  The aged Alice balances high above the trees, stumbles through the labyrinth of an absurd reality but won' t let anything get her down.  

Lisa's short film inspired me to think about Robert in Wonderland and the Robert that has a foot in reality and another in wonderland.  The next day I conducted a search on the internet for images, quotes and other material around the theme of "Alice" which made their way into my own (unsurprisingly photographic) interpretation.


 "I’m Not Going Back To Yesterday Because I Was A Different Person Then"

When I was a teenager I considered everyone above the age of 40 to be "officially old".  I also believed that at that age everything in my life from job and hobbies to friends and family would be one wonderfully comfortable routine without the real dangers of a less predictable life.  In 1983 at 12 when I decided I wanted to become a "famous songwriter", it would have almost certainly devastated me to learn (from someone who' s been to the future) that exactly 30 years later I would not only have given up on music but also still be at "square one".

The reality however, is far from devastating. I can safely say that I prefer leading a life that constantly creates that "square one"-feeling to that of the "comfortable predictability" that I had actually expected and aspired to.  Time for me to move on to square two, however...

 "But You Can't Help It. Everyone Here Is Mad."

In every day conversations I find it sometimes difficult to clearly state what I personally think about this or that. I am often reluctant to voice my opinion because I feel that I know too little about the topic in question. And I really feel awkward when I have to admit to myself that I don' t even have an opinion at all!

But why? Why is it that I, and probably others, believe that in this world today, we are supposed to have some opinion on everything if we don't want to be considered "uneducated", "disinterested" or "ignorant".    

Could it be because we seek acknowledgment and acceptance?

"If Everybody Minded Their Own Business,
The World Would Go Around A Great Deal Faster Than It Does"
I sometimes find it hard to accept people as they are, probably many of us do, as we try to place them in the categories and boxes that frame our world view and expectations of them.
I do not care about academic titles, they say nothing about me.  Money is not my main motivator and hopefully never will be.  And I have no intention of stopping to be a "dreamer" who likes to mentally escape into his own "Wonderland" at random moments of the day, every now and then. Others out there like me, who have aspirations that are out-of-the-norm, may be shattering the worldviews of those around them in this very moment!

And we should, as long as we are not harming anyone. The biggest step towards happiness is by being true to yourself.

The Moment I Realised That I Was Tricked

Lying in the face of others is one thing.  But what about lying to myself?  Isn't that an obvious attempt to ignore a valid possibility or even fact about this world which I do not want to accept for whatever reason?

Maybe.  But it is easier said than done to accept the possibility. As it would be for a religious person, to even contemplate the possibility that God may not exist or that their life is a pure cosmic coincidence...

Empty Promises

Man, I really take people by the word sometimes.  And then I get angry at them because they did not "behave" or "deliver" what they promise.  While trying to reason with my anger, I've made two observations: First, in most (if not all) cases the main cause for my anger can be traced back to myself.  Second, I sometimes put people through the looking glass but not my own self.  I do not always "walk the talk" either.

"So Rested He By The Tumtum Tree"

Not that I can remember when I last did it but I just don't understand what is so wrong about hugging a treeSo why is it that the term "tree hugger" is used to belittle environmentalists?

Is it wrong to acknowledge the "simple" things in life which in reality are far more complex creations than anything we humans could ever make?  No. And if it makes you happy then go and hug that tree for as long as you like.

 "Because Everything Would Be What It Isn’t"
I do not expect you to have an opinion about everything, let alone this "Image Of The Subconscious" or its title "Because Everything Would Be What It Isn’t" or on how the image and title fit together. You might like neither or would not want to "meditate" on whether you actually like anything about this image.  That' s fine with me.  Because I, on some matters, refuse to have an opinion.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

I Show You Happiness!

“I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness.”
(Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama in his book "The Art of Happiness")
Joy #2

Nigel, a good friend of mine, calls himself "Chief Happiness Officer" (CHO).  He runs the "Vienna Happiness Project" and if you check out the website you will find small square-shaped abstract paintings by artist Petronilla Hohenwarter titled "moments of happiness".  In my opinion Nigel would be the perfect candidate for the position of a "European Commissioner for Happiness", were the European Commission ever to create such a Directorate General


"Why on earth would the EU need a DG on Happiness?" you might ask yourself.  I tell you why: because among the top 40 countries in the "Happy Planet Index" for 2012 not a single one of today's 27 EU Member States shows up.  According to that index the gladdest people lived in Costa Rica, Vietnam and Colombia. The top Western European nation in the Happy Planet Index was Norway in 29th place, which is not a Member of the EU.

The EU country with the most joyous people is in 41st place, namely the United Kingdom, coincidentally the country where Happiness-Commissioner-to-be Nigel comes from.  Maybe president Obama should also think about appointing a "Happiness Secretary of State" because the United States of America (of course not an EU member) is ranked 105.

 Don't Laugh And Stare At This Photo For 1 Hour In Public

Could it be that happiness has little to do with wealth?  Could it be that the "upper 10,000" Austrians do not feel as positive and blissful on the inside as I do?  Should I actually pity the twenty-somethings driving around in their Porsches in the 1st district of Vienna rather than envy them for having been born into a rich family?

I guess I should neither pity nor envy them, right?

Eat The Rich

I assume you will agree that below a certain level of material wealth it is impossible for anyone to be truly content, simple because of the daily struggle to afford food, healthcare, proper housing and a decent education for their children.

Sometimes Money Can Light Up Your Life #1

But where is that certain point at which more money does not automatically mean more joy in life?  Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University found that the quality of everyday experiences does not improve beyond 75,000 USD a year.  Admittedly I find it somehow relieving that high income does not necessarily bring happiness.  Call me naive or idealistic but I really think that it would not be fair if such a direct correlation existed. 

 Seeing Red In The Mall

What is it then that brings us this desirable positive state of mind?  In the "World Book Of Happiness", Leo Bormans asked 100 leading experts on the topic from all over the world about their views.  Essentially these can be boiled down to "12 secrets".  It' s been two years since I read this book and the three things I still remember and consider relevant for myself are these:

- Enjoy the things you already have and be thankful for having them.

- Make sure you have a decent social network of friends and relatives (and regularly stay in touch with them!).

- Help others.

The Day The Window Was Cleaned And The Opportunity Clearly Visible

I have a notebook in which for years I've been writing down my "revelations", i.e. conclusions or observations that I consider important for my own well-being and advancement in life.  Possibly unsurprisingly a considerable amount of these notes deal with my own happiness.  Let me share three of them:

- "I only truly enjoy things that I consider inspiring.  Every day I will engage in at least one inspiring thing".  Remark: today one of these inspiring activities was writing this blog post!

- The feeling I get when I have the impression that I am contributing to something beautiful, significant and relevant is "joy".  Remark: here' s to IndyACT, an organisation which I co-founded in Austria.

- I am happy when I have the deep feeling that my life is taking a positive turn, that it is moving ahead in the right directionRemark: these days I feel that very strongly, and this blog and my photographic project in general definitely also have something to do with it.

Warren Just Kept On Laughing

Apparently the highest ranking politicians in the European Union have also taken note of the aforementioned "happiness deficit" in the EU, because in late 2011 the then Chairman of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy sent out a copy of the "World Book of Happiness" to all world leaders!  Do you still consider the idea of a "European Commissioner for Happiness" far-fetched?

Nigel, get your job application ready :-) 


I am also very pleased to inform you that this blog has its very first follower - it is "Pink Carlienne", a young lady from the Philippines, a "photography hobbyist on the loose" who also has her own blog called "Point and Shoot".