Sacking Of Rome

During my daily browse of the news – call it doomscrolling or a natural interest in the world – I came across several reports of White House staffers effectively stealing more or less valuable items from the hallowed halls.

Commenters coloured themselves ‘surprised’, which leaves me with two questions.

1.) How on earth are you still ‘surprised’ about this man?

2.) Could there possibly be a more poignant picture than the mad emperor’s underlings ransacking the temple scrambling to plunder its glorious past?

And past it is.

About Coffee

Okay, let me astonish you for a second.

I LOVE COFFEE, AND I KNOW FUCKALL ABOUT IT!

There! I said it.

When you tell people you like coffee, it occasionally happens that they start talking themselves in a frenzy. Out of a sudden, you find yourself in a whirlwind of grandes (not Arianna), moccas and -cinos. Arabica, aroma. Barista, blend and crema. Cappucino, frappucino, dark roast. Decaffeinated, filter, hard-bean, latte. With or without a toffee.

HEY DUDE! How do you like your coffee?

Uhm…black.
That’s it. That is literally my only requirement for coffee. No milk, no sugar. Just bean-blood and water. Well, and heat, preferably. Anything else is poppycock in my book. I get it, though. People nowadays have found a trillion ways to distinguish themselves from each other. Why would the simple act of drinking coffee be any different?

However, to me, coffee isn’t so much about taste. It’s more about a particular feeling.

Imagine, if you will, a Monday morning. It’s the all-encompassing January twilight. It’s cold. Not remarkably cold, just chilly enough to be felt. A slight drizzle. Not enough to soak your clothes. Just wet and annoying enough to be felt. You got up around forty minutes ago because your alarm-clock and the inherent need to pay rent said so. You are sad. Not overwhelmingly so. Just sad enough to be felt.

In these moments, coffee is the slightest reminder that I am alive for just that little bit more than making ends meet. Not fully alive.

Just alive enough to be felt.

Gloom Eternal

Berlin is at it again.

“Scrape the grey sky clean. Realize every grey cloud is a smoke screen to blind us from the truth, and the truth is whether we see them or not the sun and moon are still there, and always there is light.”

Shane Koyczan

Well, you had to be a true believer today. I am dead sure there wasn’t a millisecond of actual sunlight to be found anywhere in town.

Fine.

The saying goes that you have to endure Berlin’s winter to enjoy its summer. Which brings me to the worst point in all this: Where is the real winter? Remember snow? Sure, it would turn into gooey, grey, fume-stained slush after three days, but I remember there used to be at least three days up to a week with actual snow around. Remember that fuzzy, feel-good blanket that, at least for a tiny bit, would cover the dirt and exhaustion?

Snow; last seen February 2012 in Frankfurt(Oder)

My old man once pointed out that the way he sees it, climate change will announce itself in central Europe with somewhat eternal autumn only dispersed briefly by abnormal heatwaves. I marvel how abt his prophecy was.

It seems winter is the first victim because we sure as hell did not have one in years. At most, there are two to three days of a rainy snow mush abomination that everyone posts to Instagram for two hours. My first instinct is to dismiss those finger-on-the-pulse-of-modern-life influencers with the thought of “Man, have they never seen snow before?” However, I am increasingly worried they literally might not have.

And it’s not even cold. All Berlin seems to muster this year is four months of November, and YES – I am grumpy.

Cleaning House

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Let me start this off by admitting that I can be sorely annoying sometimes. More so, when I found a topic that fascinates me. I tend to then bring it up in conversations. A lot.

Often have I wondered why I do this, mainly because I know how irritating it can be. You could say it’s natural, I guess, but it is more my mind coming to terms with new concepts or ideas. It’s like I am literally thinking out loud.

The latest of my “crazes” is the topic of minimalism (as a lifestyle). I have to admit that I might have bored quite a few friends and family with it. I get it. Most people don’t find it interesting, and some people have a gut rejection of it. A lot of people have never even heard of it. It is a topic stepping up more and more into the spotlight, though, as I am personally convinced most industrialised societies will have to adapt to this idea of living eventually.

Let me summarise the idea shortly.

A minimalistic lifestyle strifes to cut away unnecessary objects and things from our lives. It attempts to consume less while thinking through any new purchase and evaluating if we really need it. Another aspect would be to repair broken items rather than replacing them. Prioritising function over form again. Downsising. One might say it is “anti-consumerism” in a new guise, and you are not wrong. To me, it is the combination of reducing consumption with more mindful and informed purchases.

This idea has gathered quite some steam recently and found notoriety in the form of various hypes in the mainstream media. The most famous one would be, without a doubt Marie Kondo and her KonMari method. However, other iterations of this principle are like tiny houses or the 33 pieces of clothing challenge.

(Sidenote: Marie Kondo has come under a bit of scrutiny recently as there seems to be a notable drive to sell (overpriced) knick-knacks to people on her website which rightfully raises the suspicion that we were supposed to free our closet space to simply fill it with new shit. I personally see this as fair criticism. However, it does not dismiss the initial idea.)

You can find a lot more information about this on the internet. Feel free to further educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it. You should never trust a random person on their website. That applies to all topics.

My initiation to the topic was a Netflix documentary called “Minimalism”. It serves as a compelling starting point into the subject. Even though the whole idea ultimately wasn’t new to me, this cemented the concept in my brain. One scene, in particular, struck a chord. Somewhere in the middle, one of the two main protagonists explains his revelation moment. And I don’t know if the sequence is a spoken word piece or just delivered very intentional (which would make it a spoken word piece). He describes his mother’s death and his divorce while spiralling into a monotonous list of items he needs to buy for his new flat. For some reason, even though my mum is well, and I haven’t even married someone yet, I could identify with the whole notion. I knew I wanted to get started on becoming a minimalist too.

However, as I stated in the beginning, my brain still needed time to process. Even though my mind concluded this is the way forward relatively easy, something was stalling me. It took me a while thinking about it, and the best idea I have so far is the notion that you cannot unlearn an attitude that has been drilled into you at every turn in your life since you were a kid. It is also all too easy to find excuses. In my case, I stopped myself with two observations which aren’t totally wrong but served as a veritable shield from actual change.

For one, I convinced myself that I wasn’t buying that many unuseful things. This isn’t entirely untrue, because I consider myself in the lower third of most ways to measure wealth. (note: I apply 1st world standards here!) I was brought up as a solid middle-class kid, but all my working life (+ the years as a university student) I was on the lower end of the income structure. I use the term “white-collar working class” to describe this. I don’t know if I came up with this or heard it somewhere, but I always found it a fitting description. And hey, if you don’t have that much money to spend then for sure I am not buying useless stuff, right?

Secondly, I always thought that all my belongings combined are probably not worth much. I still stand by that, as I firmly believe that were I to sell ALL of my earthly possessions the monetary gain would be a couple thousand Euros at the most. The longer I ponder this, the more I am convinced here lies the issue. See, it turns out I was wrong.

I OWN SO MUCH SHIT!

And it is mind-bogglingly idiotic to realise that most of my stuff is neither worth a lot to the world, NOR to me. Wouldn’t that make you sick? All these things without any real value and yet it is here. Resources went into manufacturing, resources went into shipping worldwide. Here it is. A massive pile of waste. Practically useless. Imagine you smoke three packs of cigarettes a week, and after fifty years someone would present to you two stacks: one of all the fags you ever had and one of all the money you spend on them. It would be maddening, right? Especially considering every sane person knows that smoking kills.

Well, I am looking at a literally STACK of HDMI cables. And I will now confess that I honestly do not know or understand why I FOUR-FUCKING-TEEN of them! FOURTEEN! I only have two working monitors! I genuinely despair the longer I think about it.

But then, this is the kick up the arse I needed, and I think I am making progress.

Although, I still have one demon waiting for me to try and tackle it. Straight across the room. There they are. Four record racks filled with my CD collection. See, it is astonishingly easy to admit they have to go. I have not picked up a record from its space for more than three years now, and even if I wanted to – I do not own any apparatus that could actually play them. My brain knows that throwing them out is undeniably logical. And yet, I will need a lot of strength to go about this. (By the way, I looked into selling them… they are literally worth cents. I would not get more than 20€ selling all of them. To think about how much money I spent. I shudder.)

During all of these cleaning up, categorising and weighing the actual worth of my possessions, I also was struck by the notion that my online life needed the same trim. As I explained in the very first post of this blog, I finally watched “The Social Dilemma” and knew that I should not half-arse things. The mass exodus of social media in my life is what gave birth to this blog, after all. However, after scrubbing my hard drive, clearing my bookmarks, sorting out books and stuff and stuff and stuff and stuff, I came across a thought that, frankly, terrifies me.

Getting rid of stuff the way I did creates space and a considerable amount of free time. Free time I have to spend with myself. Free time I don’t know yet how to use. It leaves space for me, and I cannot help but feel that a lot of me has stopped growing these last few years. If you think about it that makes sense. There was simply no space to grow into. Now there is. A lot of room to fill with meaningful things. People, emotions, experiences.

A lot of space too for all the things I hate about myself.

Fears. Anger. Negativity. Pessimism and Darkness.

It’s going to be wild.

Hindsight Is 2020

To put a lid on an awful year and be ready to move on into the future, I decided I’d share a playlist of my favourite songs in 2020.

Be aware that those songs I liked last year are not necessarily songs OF that year. Some are older, some were known to me before, some I never heard of. However, they ARE my soundtrack of the pandemic.

Interestingly enough, quite a few of these tracks are relatively cheery. Have fun!

Why?

“One cannot not communicate”

(Paul Watzlawick)

Well, I am a destroyer of wor(l)ds.

People who have known me a while are aware I created and destroyed a sizeable amount of blogs (or blog-like structures) over the years. All on a whim. Pairing this destructive trait with the ever-waning popularity of the blog format on the internet, you might raise an important question: Why start a new one?

Having asked myself that very question, I’ll be frank with you. I don’t quite know (yet). Though I have a basic idea about the upcoming content of this blog. However, I am not entirely sure what my own intentions are. Let me try and explain what I know so far.

First, I’ll explain that I have the same on-off relationship with social media as I have with blogs. I create accounts, use them for a while, delete them again. Rumour has it, I once recreated a Facebook account to use Tinder. What a colossal waste of EVERYONE’s time. It’s a constant tug of war between my inherent need to get in contact with others and my threshold for bullshit.

This time around, though, social media made the decision for me. Out of the sudden, I had an unfixable login-issue with my Instagram-account(s). Even after using all my tech-savviness, the problem would persist. Coupled with yet another questionable terms of use update, I decided that Mark can Zuck(erberg) it. Finally, I got rid of all Facebook-owned services in my life. (Try explaining THAT to your parents!)

What followed were a few days (weeks?) of filling the void with scrolling other services. My methadone of choice was tumblr and reddit. However, I could not shake the feeling that all I did was swap a lake full of lava with a river of acid to cross. Please, if there is a God, don’t you ever give me an overview of my time spent in social media. Especially, do never tell me how many of these interactions were actually meaningful. I have my suspicions about that, and would rather leave it there.

Also, I made my third attempt at finishing The Social Dilemma on Netflix. I still haven’t finished it. Mostly because I cannot handle the harsh truth that this isn’t a Black Mirror episode anymore. This is happening. Social media are designed to be addicting. They are a drug. And they are in the hands of massive corporations who will not care about consequences as long as they don’t affect the bottom line. Most disturbingly, they are gleefully experimenting with how much they can influence you.

And those experiments work!

Look, a lot has been written about the subject already. Way smarter people than me have dealt with the topic far more eloquently than I can. By no means am I saying you have to get rid immediately, but you HAVE TO be aware.

My own decision from that point onwards was clear. Yesterday, I deleted all of these timesinks from my devices. I vowed to be way more selective about which services are worth my time. I am not yet sure, whether I can actually pull this off. If anything, this should be an indicator of how dangerous all this is. Quitting a free online service should not fill you with dread, should it?

(Sidenote: I am aware that some of this blog’s elements still contain social menus and like buttons. I see the contradiction to what I just said, but unfortunately, I cannot remove those. Be it my incompetence or the fact that they might just be part of the system now. In any way, they are a suspicious reminder of the omnipresence of social media in our lives.)

Finally, what is this blog going to be about?

That part is easy to answer. I want it to be a hodgepodge of all the little things I usually would post in social media. A place to let you know what is going on in my life. Expect mad ramblings, awful puns, the occasional insightful witticism (probably stolen) and maybe pictures of cute cats.

No real agenda, just a place to empty my head.
It’s a personal blog, dummy!