So Old Testament…

Some time ago I was at a baptism. Before the ceremony began, I had to excuse myself I had to pay a visit. When I was done and wanted to wash my hands I discovered something strange: soap. Well, it was not the presence of the soap that was strange but the soap itself. It was one of those soap dispensers that smell like all kinds of things; e.g. strawberry, vanilla, you name it. Don’t forget, I was in church and this soap really smelled like milk and honey. That was so Old Testament like. So I was literally in the land of milk and honey…in a strange way.

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Just Thinking…

Well, it’s been awhile…anyways.

Little evil me loves to eat in his favorite canteen. This canteen, however, is mostly visited by old people. Over the years (five at least) I have  seen many of them come and go and there was always this little voice somewhere in the back of my mind. A voice that was steering my thoughts in a new direction. To be honest, this direction was not completely new to me as I know my sense of humor too well.
Whatever, sitting there and watching the elderly sitting inside and walking or standing outside in groups (yes, there is a bus station were tourist groups of elderly people arrive quite often) little evil me had to experience what it is like to have too much imagination coupled with a twisted sense of humor. However, I would like to share the results of my inquiry into the back of my little evil mind with you.

A lot of old people pass by the window or come into the canteen with their rollators, or wheeled walker, so sometimes I wonder if I could get them to start a race. You know, nothing like the Formula One. It would be more like dragster racing where they could start at one end of the sidewalk with the finish at the other end. The winner could get a free meal at the canteen. Or money. One could even open a betting office and weekly races but I think this would go too far, wouldn’t it?

People can be conditioned, that’s no secret. You just have to look at Pawlow’s dog. Anyway, I would love to see how conditioned old people are. Most people link bubbling liquids to either boiling water, drinks or fizzy tablets. Old people, however, quite often know bubbling liquids as the tablet they put into a glass of water to cleanse their choppers. Or at least that’s my humble evil assumption. And when do people mostly cleanse their choppers? Right, after they had something to eat and of course when they go to bed. So, if I walk by an old man in the canteen and secretly put a fizzy tablet into his glass, will he automatically take out his choppers and throw them into the glass? Maybe someday I’ll…or maybe not…although…nevermind.

I’d love to sit at a table dressed in a black coat, face hidden under a black hood, daring old people to sit at my table and enjoy their meal. Okay, the scythe would be missing but hey, doesn’t a modern Grim Reaper have an App for that?  Honestly, I think there are much scarier people around than a guy dressed all in black. But still…

Well, this is the end of the little excursion into the back of my mind. I hope you enjoyed it. I didn’t mean to offend anyone 🙂 Maybe I’m going to post more regularly again.
Anyway, now I’m going to have lunch. Guess where… 😉

Quid pro quo

Hello Maddy,

Thank you for really sending me some questions:-) Seems you liked my idea. Maybe we could elaborate further on that and get a blog-based/post-based exchange going, i.e. sending questions/thoughts back and forth and answering/thinking about them. Would be interesting. What do you think?

However, first things first. Now I’m going to answer your questions one by one. Yes, I chose to answer all three of them because they really made me think. I’ve been away all weekend (that’s why my answer comes a bit late) and besides my luggage I took these questions with me. It’s not that they caused me some sleepless nights, however, they made me think. Why? Because I came to see how hard it actually was to answer these questions quick like a shot. I was born in Germany and am living here all my life and should know a lot about the country and the people. I mean, that’s what we think we do, isn’t it? We think we know so much because we seldom confront ourselves with what we don’t know.
Another thing is that we become so, not ignorant (that sounds too negative) but too accustomed to the things around us that we hardly recognize changes – big or small. We observe so much that we hardly see a thing, if you know what I mean. So, you had me thinking regularly this weekend and I hope my answers will turn out satisfactory.

If you could recommend to a tourist one place, big or small, in all of Germany to visit what would it be?
Well, this one was easy. The answer is Munich. This city is just awesome. I’ve been there three times and it never got boring. Munich has so much to offer, from the Deutsches Museum to the Olympia Park (containing the former stadium of Bayern München). There’s so much to see that you simply have to go back (i.e. if you don’t stay for weeks).
Also, the surrounding landscape (the Alps etc.) must be quite a view. Unfortunately, I haven’t been there yet so I guess I have to go there.
And tradition is quite important in Munich (and the whole of Bavaria I think). You have the Hofbräuhaus with live music played by guys in traditional lederhosen (leather pants). It’s not the kind of music I like, however, we don’t have anything similar to that where I live. Actually, tradition is fading away in my hometown. But that’s another story. So, if you ever get the chance visit Munich. I can definitely recommend that place.

What’s a common household object in Germany that most likely isn’t in America or other countries?
You’ve got me there. As technology advances very quickly and everything has become and still becomes more modern I guess it’s hard to name a household object that you don’t have in America. Even a fridge telling you when your yoghurt ‘s best-before date has expired wouldn’t be something we only have in Germany. I don’t know if they already went on sale but you get my point, don’t you? However, I’m not leaving you without an answer on this one. I know that especially elder people still have their manually operated meat grinders which they also use for baking cookies. E.g. my grandma still uses one for baking her Christmas cookies. These old meat grinders have different stencils producing different kinds of cookies (flat, star-shaped etc.). Old people in America might still have these meat grinders too but that was one thing that came to mind.
Another object would be manually operated coffee grinders. Old people still like to use them to grind their coffee beans. If they don’t do so, they like to use them for decorative purposes by lining them up (yes, they often have more than one) on top of kitchen cabinets.

What’s a common German expression?
This question is really difficult to answer. It’s hard to find a common expression or proverb that is originally German. Nowadays these expressions and proverbs are all translated into different languages so that you can hardly trace their origin. And even if you could the expression wouldn’t be common only in Germany anymore. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to say that an expression is commonly German as I don’t know if it’s known everywhere in Germany. However, I thought of something that I am quite sure is only known in a small part of Germany. It’s an expression we tend to use in the region where I live and that you can only understand if you’re acquainted with this region’s tradition and dialect (Plattdeutsch or Low German – both words exist in English, as far as I know). So, it’s not commonly German but uniquely Rhenish:
‘Wat is dat für ‘ne Tünnes?’ Tünnes is the Rhenish form of Antonius (Anthony). However, if you don’t know what ‘Tünnes’ stands for you cannot understand the meaning of this sentence. In German this sentence means: ‘Was ist das für ein Blödmann?’. Translated into English it means: ‘He’s a dumbass’. So, actually, ‘Tünnes’, in this sentence, simply means ‘Blödmann’ (dumbass) but you cannot understand it if you don’t understand our dialect.

So, that’s it for now. I hope you’re content with my answers and you’ll think about my suggestions about the exchange. I’d be happy about a comment/feedback 🙂
Last but not least, here’s my question that’s hopefully going to make you think:

If hope dies last, what  do you think happens when hope is dead?

I’ve asked myself this question quite a few times without finding a categorial answer. However, I’m curious about your thoughts/answer.

The Digitization of Strong Feelings

“I love you” – what more can you sayto/hear from the one you hold so dear? OK, you could expand it by saying “I love you so much”, “I’ll love you forever” and so on…However, in the end it all comes down to “I love you”. Those three little words combined form one of the most wonderful and powerful sentences to say/hear, don’t they? But…yes, there’s always a “but”, I think that, these days, a big part of love has lost its meaning among certain parts of society.
I’m referring to the digital world, specifically social networks and mobile phones.

Of course the networks and phones offer a great deal of means of social interaction which isn’t bad. No, on the contrary, they’re good to stay in contact with people or to get to know new people, the latter entailing certain risks but that’s another story. What bothers me more is the fact that the important parts of life tend to be shifted into the digital world.  It might make some parts of life easier I can’t and won’t deny that but there are certain things (for want of a better word…maybe issues, anyways) that just don’t belong into the digital world.

This is where love is brought into play. Feelings like love (or even hate) have no place in such a world. OK, there is nothing wrong about writing a message or an e-mail containing some words of devotion and love. It’s just that love shouldn’t be “limited” to the confines of digital life lest it becomes impersonal. Actually, that’s the worst that can happen. Would it still be love then?

Maybe I’m a bit old-school about things but I just cannot imagine my love in a world that is not really tangible.
Well, how does this kind of relationship begin? Of course, changing your relationship status from “single” to “in a relationship”. This provokes a storm of surprises and curiosity as it results in a hundred messages being sent to you, each of them containing the same questions: “who”, “when”, “why”…you name it. Then there are the exaggerated status messages: “Honey, I love you. Love of my life, you’re the best that ever happened to me”. Ok, actually there’s nothing wrong about it. However, posting this after a week is somewhat overstated. Especially the second part is as you simply can’t say that after a week. At the beginning everything’s like peace, love and harmony (or maybe hormony, if that even makes sense). No one knows how his/her counterpart behaves in hard times. Maybe he/she leaves the sinking ship immediately. And, honestly, is that what you expect the love of your life to do? No, so beware of jumping to conclusions.

What follows now are the pinboard entries. The endless oaths of love posted day by day which anyone can read. There’s nothing bad about writing some nice words but why not wait until you see each other. Saying what you feel might be a bit more difficult than writing but it’s so much more personal and it has a wonderful effect. Well, if you have to write them down, write a love letter. Handwritten, on beautiful writing paper. No printed Word document.

Yes, again, I might be somewhat old-school and maybe you can even call me a lost or hopeless romantic. You know what? You may even be right. I like spending an evening candlelit evenings with music or watching a movie or even just talking. I like snuggling up under a blanket in front of an open fire (a real open fire, not one of these open fires on DVD). In short I like it romantic. Why? Because it always is an undescribably wonderful experience of which I wouldn’t want to miss one second.

No digital world can create such an intimacy. No digital world can create such a feeling of closeness. In fact, no digital world can create such an experience, i.e. no digital world can be (this) romantic. So the question that comes to mind is “Why do so many people move their relationships into such a world (especially adolescents)?” I guess it’s because of lost values. When I was a child and later an adolescent my parents taught me values that really are lost on today’s youth (acutally I’m not that old, although my fellow blogger would say something else :-P, but it’s been a few since since my adolescence). Today it feels like love’s become more of a competition than a feeling. What counts, it seems, is having as much “relationships” as possible in a short time. That’s not what you call love, is it? So, it all has to do with the loss of values. I mean if you have no idea of what love actually is then how can you really love someone? If you don’t know how to drive a car then you don’t drive, do you? Otherwise you’d crash it. It may be a strange comparison but I think it fits because if you have the wrong idea of love you will certainly crash it.

So, let’s better move love to a world we can handle. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe being in love is asking too much of a lot of people because they never learned how to deal with it, i.e. in the real world. In contrast everyone knows how to use the internet, especially social networks, to deal with things. I mean, these days the most banal things are arranged via the internet. “Google just told me that Coitus Interruptus wasn’t a Roman Emperor.” Well, if you’d paid attention you would’ve know that since the sixth grade. Anyway, if the internet can handle that, why shouldn’t it be able to handle a relationship.

Don’t tell me that’s impossible ’cause that’d be wrong. I do know people who did that. I don’t know if that still do but that doesn’t matter. They did it. Whenever they encountered a problem they met online and discussed it. “What did you say? Go online, we must talk.” Why? Why not discuss it in person? I guess some people just lack the courage. You can plan a trip over the internet but you can’t solve a problem this way, at least not a problem concerning your relationship. Whenever we are online, we’re not the same. Some more than others but each of us has an Alter Ego. The internet-me that is so much braver than real-life-me. How often did you say things online you wouldn’t dare to say into someone’s face? Right, quite often I guess. Why? Because you can. How often do people lie on dating sites? Again, quite often. Why? Yes, ’cause they can. “Misdeeds” become easier and so values shift to the negative or get lost completely on some people. There is nothing more cleansing than a good and honest face-to-face conversation/discussion. Lovers are supposed to be friends as well and with good friends you can have these conversations. I shouldn’t get started on arguments. How can you have a real argument via a messenger program? That simply does not work. “Don’t you write that again or I’ll give you the evil-look smiley!!!” “If you give me that smiley I’m gonna give you the bomb emoticon!!!” Honestly, that can’t be it, can it? Consequently, talking face-to-face is still the best way to solve a problem, as hard as it may be sometimes. When you really talk about something you’ll feel the burden fall off your shoulders. And that’s one good feeling. You will not nearly get the same effect with instant messaging.

Before coming to an end on this rather long post I’d like to bring the relationship to an end. After four weeks (just to name a period of time) one of the lovebirds realizes that “the love of my live” just isn’t the right person. “The best that has ever happened to me” has simply become a pain in the a**? But how tell her? Oh well, that’s easy: the way it started. Go to your social network profile and change the relationship status from “in a relationship” to “single”. Certainly, all hell will break loose again and you’ll be bombarded with questions. Howsoever, the deserted partner will either discover the break-up himself or someone’ll tell him “Hey, I didn’t know that X broke up with you.” And now’s the time the world, the real one, collapses around you. No matter how much the relationship was shifted into the online world, the feelings were real. That’s what you’ll realize right then and then the sky crashes down, too. There’s is nothing more humiliating than discovering someone left you by reading “X changed her relationship status from ‘in a relationship’ to ‘single’. It’s hard enough to be left by someone but being humiliated this way, no one deserves that. Each break-up raises questions on the abandoned partner’s side. These questions have to be answered because there a few things more tormenting than a broken heart and uncertainty. This is why, here again, a clarifying conversation is inevitable. The same holds true for breaking up via short or instant messages. It’s just unfair.

Finally, I can say that big feelings are digitized because we often lack the ability to deal with them in proper ways. We move them into a world where we feel secure and in control. A world that we can just disconnect from when things seem to get out of hand ’cause we’re braver. We don’t have to fear immediate consequences. We can just disconnect and do something else. Without looking back. In real life it’s some much harder to turn around, walk away and not look back. Try it. The minute your out of your partner’s sight you realize you made a big mistake. This is why I think big feelings don’t belong into social networks. Big feelings belong into the real world so that we can learn how to deal with them, how to have a discussion/an argument, how to solve a problem. Let’s not hide behind a mask because when push comes to shove we’re definitely going to lose them.

I don’t do social networking – am I asocial?

“Hey, sad thing what happened to X, isn’t it? No one deserves this.”
“Well, what happened to him?”
“You don’t know? His girlfriend cheated on him and he caught her right in the act! How come you don’t know? He posted it in facebook this morning.”
“I don’t have facebook.”
“You don’t…what?”

Well, it’s a fictitious dialogue but, yeah, I don’t belong to the hundreds of millions of people possessing a facebook account. It happened that people stared at me in disbelief, eyes wide, jaws dropping open. “But everyone has facebook these days.” Yeah, well, I’m not everyone. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think myself to be one hell of special. I’m just me…and “me” doesn’t have a facebook account. Period.
I never deemed it necessary to create an account and I still don’t. Why? Ok, let’s start from the beginning.

It all started with these networks for pupils. Reconsidering these times I found out what bothered me subconsciously about them. You had to be invited by someone already registered to be able to create your own account. So, back in school, you could hear students asking around “Hey, could you send me an invitation for X and Y this evening? I’d like to join it.” Strange, isn’t it? I mean, you wouldn’t ask someone “Hey, I heard tomorrow’s your birthday. Could you invite me to your party?” It’s kind of humiliting for the one who asks; begging to be invited. It sounds a bit like “Hey, I don’t have any friends. Would you like to be my friend?” You may laugh but kids or adolescents think like this.
Yes, asking for an invitation to join a social network is kind of like admitting to have no friends. Or how come anyone hasn’t invited you yet?

Honestly, I don’t have many friends as well (3 to be exact. But I’d trust each of them with my life. It’s quality, not quantity that counts). However, one of these friends send me an invitation and I found myself having access to the inner circle of the abyss of the human mind. Ok, being able to send messages for free was quite a nice thing. Finding former class mates was cool, too but that was all.

Ok, social networks weren’t as modern as today when I was a student, however, all the shit (excuse my language) that’s hitting the news today began there already. Students started to bully others in messages or wrote down nasty things on their digital pinboards. Oh, and don’t forget the wonderful groups that were founded.
“X’s mom is a b….”,
“X reeks of fish as is proud of it”
Or simply “We hate X” and X could click on the group and see that so-and-so many people hated him/her. Most of the people didn’t even know X.
It was the same with racist groups. E.g. “ZZZ – we know what it means” with I don’t know how many “followers” who mistook their cursor for a hood.  But hate seems to always have been spreading like a forest fire.
I left this type of network. Although I knew a lot of people there, I couldn’t identify myself with what they thought or did. I didn’t feel well getting invitations for hate groups against people I had never even heard of. Of course the same holds true concerning people I knew. The thing is that the people in these group did not necessarily hate the group’s chosen victim. It was more like group pressure and the fear of repercussions. Yes, no one wanted to be the victim, so better join the “predator” (for want of a better word).

Actually, I’d like to know how many people were broken by these networks. I mean, it was just like in school. Everyone ignored you there and everyone ignored you in the digital world. When in real life people tried their best to make friends, it was damn hard to cope with the rejection. But the torture went on in the digital world with posts like “Stupid c*** S. Why does she always bother me? Can’t she see that no one likes her.” And similar things. The victims were often invited into the networks to be able to see how their classmates thought about them.
In the end I distanced myself from that world. Did I distance myself from society? Did I distance myself from social standards? Did that make me asocial?
Let’s keep these questions in mind.

It’s the same with facebook these days (no, this is nothing against facebook itself. It just that it’s the most famous of all the social networks around) Yes, I wasn’t quite honest in the beginning. I hope you can forgive me. Actually, I had a facebook account for approx. 1 month. I found people I knew and people who knew me found me. It didn’t do me any good.
Why did I join in the first place? Out of curiosity. I wanted to see what all the hype was about. I’m still waiting for the answer. Ok, it’s still a nice thing to find people you once knew but that’s about it.
It was not the same as with the student networks. No, it was worse. People literally digitized their lives.
“Just woke up.”
“Too much party yesterday. Hungover.”
“Drunk yesterday. Vomited on our cat. Vacuum it off when it’s dry.”
Honestly, I couldn’t care less. Call me narrow-minded but it were things like these that really put me off.

Everyone was documenting each step they took. Privacy was kicked in the butt, no, wait, it was actually given up on purpose. It felt like people were naked, got naked by every bit of information they offered to the world wide web, to people they didn’t even know. No one could keep anything to themselves. Excuse my language, again, but it felt like digital prostitution as everyone was offering a big chunk of their lives. Not to mention all the pictures that went with their profiles.
The alleged anonymity of the Internet made a cross the last frontiers of shame.
Consequently, I left this digital world as well. I had gathered my impressions and experiences and was left with the same questions as before: Did I distance myself from society? Did I distance myself from social standards? Did that make me asocial?

Well, let’s try to answer them or rather let me try to answer them. In order to do so, I’ll first have a look at the definition of “asocial”. Wiktionary defines “asocial” as ‘not social’ or ‘not sociable’ [http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/asocial]. Wikipedia says the following: “Asociality refers to the lack of a strong motivation to engage in social interaction and/or the preference for solitary activities.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asociality]. Further on in the article it says that “a degree of asociality is routinely observed in introverts”. I am an introvert, so yes, I might be asocial to a certain degree. Does the question rather have to be “am I even more asocial?”?
Considering that social networks today are part of society I distanced myself from that part, in a way, by leaving the networks. Before elaborating on this, though, let’s take a look at social standards. According to Wirtschaftslexikon24.net social standards are “norms to evaluate behavior as good, desirable etc.” [http://www.wirtschaftslexikon24.net/e/standard-sozialer/standard-sozialer.htm] Reading this made me come to the following conclusion:

As being or not being part of a social network can definitely never judge one (I mean, you can’t say “he’s in facebook so he must be a good guy” and vice versa) social networking can, in my opinion, not be seen as a social standard. What I have to admit, though, is that I, on purpose, distanced myself from a certain circle by leaving a network. However, a good friend of mine once said that “true friends will call you, no matter what”. And I think he is perfectly right. No friendship should be defined by being or not being part of a network. This works wonderful with the few but super friends I have got. Consequently, leaving any of these networks did, at least, not make me more asocial. And I think that keeping things to yourself does not necessarily make you asocial.

What’s your opinion on social networking? Do you think not joining them means distancing yourself from society or a certain group of people?

P.S.: Excuse me, if there shouldn’t be too much order in my writng. I just wrote down what came into my mind. But I’ll try to improve my writing. Promised 🙂

The Beauty of a Summer’s Rain

“Sometimes you got to believe
Beyond yesterday
I’m gonna find my way
In the summer’s rain
In a summer’s rain”
(Savatage – Summer’s Rain)

There really is something to this. Together with the music these lyrics even have a stronger effect on the listener. Savatage was a great band (one of the best in their genre) and Jon Oliver is a great singer (yeah, the good old Mountain King) and this song is just another proof of their musical genius. But, I’m not going to write about the significance of Savatage for the Metal-genre. No, I’m going to write about a summer’s rain and the beauty it has to it.

When I had to wait for the bus again I started walking the streets to pass my time. The weather was quite warm but the sky was a deep gray. Of course it didn’t take long before it started to drizzle lightly. “Wonderful”, I thought “I have to wait for the bus and it’s gotta start raining”. Honestly, I was a bit bugged and kept on walking, silently cursing the weather.
After a while, however, I stopped mumbling into my beard and somehow I thought “Damn, there’s really something special about the rain”. That’s how I stumbled upon the beauty of a summer’s rain.

After some hot and dry summer days one is often exhausted. Heat can really give one a hard time and especially old people suffer from it.
So, after some days of unbearable warmth one starts to think “A kingdom for some rain” and similar things. This is where the beautiful part comes in.
The clouds start to form in the sky and turn from white into different shades of gray. The sun vanishes and it becomes not colder but comfortably warm and muggy. And then, when you go outside, you get that special smell in your nose – the smell of rain. Honestly, I can’t describe but I’m sure you know what I mean. If not, go outside before our after the rain and you can smell it.

Suddenly you can feel a light drizzle on your arms and on your face and you know it’s starting to rain. Actually, this is the time to go inside but not this time. No, this time you stay outside and let the rain fall down on you. Why? Because it feels wonderful. It’s not that cold and ugly type of rain. On the contrary, the drops are slightly warm. You can feel them on your face, on your arms and wherever else they hit you. It’s a wonderful feeling standing in that type of rain and somehow it’s cleansing. The rain runs down your face and it seems like everything is washed away, all the sorrow, all the sadness, all the melancholy. And then…the rain is gone.

After the rain has gone the clouds slowly vanish until there is nothing but blue sky and sunshine…and somewhere on the horizon there is a rainbow. And now you tell me this isn’t a beautiful sight. A bright and colorful rainbow just for you. Ok, actually a lot of people can see it, but who cares? Now, it’s your rainbow because it’s your moment brought to you by a summer’s rain.

When can you find your way better than in your moment?