Dance Monkey, Dance!

I’ve been taken away from my little house on the hill and moved to the big city (metaphorically speaking) which I’m calling now “the machine, the factory”, because this is what it actually is: the city is an artificial environment, it’s Ford’s assembly line, it’s a big factory where everything is automated and streamlined, a place where you have your running water (almost) all the time, your gas and fire most of the time, your electricity most of the time, the food is waiting you in nicely tucked in shelves, your car or the public transportation system is ready to take you to your destination, your phone lets you to communicate fast with whomever you can reach by the phone – all of these modern inventions having the role to reduce the time you spend trying to fulfill your basic necessities and sometimes even more than that. In short, all the means for you to have more time, to be more productive and to consume more are in place. Thus, you become a machine, a cog in the wheel, trying to do your part, to be efficient and to produce in order to do what is on the other side of the coin: to consume, because the act of consuming is what keeps the economy, the city and the machine growing. Producing and consuming is like Yin and Yang, one cannot exist without the other. It’s your duty to consume and to keep inflating the bubble, to keep your hopes and enthusiasm and the hopes and enthusiasm of others going. The entrepreneurs’ venture is all based on hopes and dreams and without a consuming society, without the machine, he knows that he is doomed to fail. On the other side, the consumer must be constantly coaxed, influenced, persuaded to consume until his raison d’etre, his meaning and life purpose becomes consumerism, he comes to believe that his dreams can be achieved only by the act of consuming. The entrepreneur and the consumer need one another in a mad illusory embrace that keeps on growing and growing into a bubble.

Homo Sapiens evolving into a bar code
Homo Sapiens evolving into a bar code. Source: Pinterest

The city is the place where time was invented. Standardized time. Around 1880 or so they (the British railway companies) decided and declared that time needs to be standardized, that there are no more local times, no more cities going with their own local time, that time has to be neatly organized and cut into pieces, arranged into longitudes and “time zones”, “there you go, this is your time from now on, you will do everything according to our time”. The reason for all this standardization? For the better functioning of the machine of course, workers have to get-up up on time and to arrive at the factory on time in order to keep the production going and on time. The machine can’t wait and it doesn’t wait for anyone. Even though the machine itself has no notion of time, it’s only its servants that created it.

But I’m not a consumer at heart. I’m tired of consuming. I don’t want to consume anymore. For example, I’ve been consuming information ever since this morning, content from news sites, from social media (Twitter), from Youtube but have I grown, am I better version of myself after all this consuming? No. I’m still the same. I don’t want to consume anymore but I don’t know what to fill my time with, all this invented, standardized time created by efficiency and automation and by the machine. I don’t need to go to the fountain and fetch water, to hunt or grow my own food, to make candles so I can see in the dark, to wash my clothes, I don’t have to walk for hours to get somewhere and to communicate with someone. No more adrenaline and thrills given by the wait of the hunt and the hunt itself, no more thinking while I go and get water, no more stories and songs told and sang around the fireplace, no more time spent in nature for hours on end. We’ve been taken away from what made us and put into an artificial environment where we are fed dreams and hopes.

What to do when you refuse to be fed the dreams and hopes of a consumerist society and have a lot of time on your hands? I think, I create, I invent, I write.
And I’m not the only one who is doing creative work with his free time, as a matter of fact all of this free time at the disposal of humanity transformed over time into art, research and scientific discovery, a progress that is happening at an accelerated pace. Because of all this extra time we can now travel and discover the world, we live longer and healthier in safer environments. I do acknowledge that all this free time contributed to the first steps of man on the moon and other extraordinary things but I’m also acknowledging the fact that we are losing something in this process and becoming something else, that we are working incessantly at our new artificial environment while degrading our original and natural one. Where is all this progress taking us and in what way it will transform us? We will have to wait and see. However, until then…we must diligently perform our duties like the little cogs in the wheel that we are, we have to produce and to consume. Dance monkey, dance!

Summer Chills

At the beginning of this month I wrote about the Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), a term with a lot of sophisticated words used to describe a common feeling of tingling that starts from the top of the head and continues down the spine. We all know and experienced that feeling, I don’t think that there is a person that haven’t, but only few of us know the scientific term for it.

Where I’m trying to get is here: I’ve also experienced in the past, as a matter of fact not long ago, during a run a few days ago, and most probably will experience this sensation in the future. I don’t know exactly how it’s called, didn’t found out the scientific term for it yet, if there is one. I searched and didn’t found anything relevant, if you know what I’m talking about and know more details than I do, feel free to send a comment. I can only describe it: I feel this sensation only during hot days, usually summer, the scenario is this: it’s hot outside, I go outside for a walk or a run, I heat up, start sweating, start feeling hotter and hotter and then, suddenly, I feel a chill and feel like I’m cooling down – only that it seems like a fake cooling, I don’t think I actually cooling down.

Cowboy chilling in the desert
Cowboy chilling in the desert

From what I found, the explanation for this phenomenon could be this one: when you overheat the blood retreats from the extremities and your skin, the blood vessels constrict. When the warm blood starts retreating from the skin it causes the skin to “cool off’. This is what I’ve found so far, it might be a body feature designed by evolution to deal with heat. I just named it “summer chills”.

 

A Little Bit of Hiking

Went today for a little hiking on one of the hills outside the city I live in. On the way there I could not help but notice how the car traffic increased steadily in the past years. I don’t know exactly the statistics and the car ownership percentage, it’s just an observation. Another phenomenon that I observed is the steady increase in the average weight of the people in this country. There might be a correlation here, a lot of more polluting cars, less movement, more sedentary lives, less exercising and less hiking. Speaking of hiking, there are very few people hiking in the area where I usually go. Maybe it’s better that way, it’s a beautiful place and more people might be a nefarious factor for the area, I already witnessed nefarious human activity in the year during the past years.

Admiring the beauty of the nature, exercise, clean air, peace, tranquility, freedom, charging your batteries with energy and positive thoughts – a hiking in the woods is all about these things.

I also found and collected some elderflowers with the purpose of making a delicious elderflower cordial back at home.

Forest light in Iasi, Romania
Forest crossroad in Iasi, Romania

Elderflowers in the forest, Iasi, Romania

A Life Well Lived

Life is like a game of poker and living a good life is all about playing the cards that fate gives you to the best of your ability. It’s not about regrets and having no regrets. What does this means anyway? Doing everything you want? Well, you can’t do anything you want and you can’t have anything you want so of course that there will be regrets. There is no person alive or dead that lived a life without regrets. There is no person alive or dead that had in life all they ever wanted. Nobody’s given the best cards all the time. On the other hand, nobody’s given the worst cards all the time. We have to make do with the cards that we are dealt and we have to make lemonade from those lemons that are thrown our way and to make strawberry smoothies from those strawberries that are thrown our way.

A life well lived
In the end, just three things matter:
How well we have lived
How well we have loved
How well we have learned to let go.

Seeing the good in the bad things that happen to us is a life well lived. Seeing the bad in the good things that happen to us is a wasted life. I don’t want to be able to say “I have no regrets” in my last years of existence, I want to be able to say “I lived the best possible life with the things that I’ve got”. I have many dreams and I want many things, smaller or bigger, but I have to internalize the fact that I will never have some of them. I want to find happiness and joy in the small things in life, to always remain curious and enthusiastic about the world around me, to have passion, to be interested in discovery and exploration, to experience the least amount of idle time as possible. I might not achieve all the things in life that I want and I might have regrets but I will certainly consider my life well spent knowing that I managed to squeeze out the flavor of life with the things that I’ve been given and that I wasted no time. That would be, for me, a life well lived.

 

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The Happiness and the Joy of the Smaller Things in Life

Not long ago I made a post about Flow and the Optimal Experience of Life which addresses subjects like the modern pursuit of happiness, the culture of personality and how to live a more happy and fulfilling life. Well, one of my interests is neuroscience and I’m always looking to discover and to learn more about how the mind works and one thing that I learned so far is that Homo Sapiens, the Wise Man in Latin, is actually an emotional creature prone to various shortcomings and biases. So, no matter how many words I write and how convincing I’m trying to make my posts, appealing to rationality will always be less persuasive than appealing to emotions, hence in this post I will give concrete examples that can be seen and heard, examples on how to find flow and to achieve an optimal experience of life.

It started with a Youtube video recommendation, having the words Oslo and Norway in the title and a thumbnail with a guy holding a bottle in his hand. Well, I’m not really into guys with bottles in their hands and it did seem a weird recommendation but I do am interested in Norway and in the Nordic culture in general so I said “What the hell, it’s a short video anyway, let’s see what’s about” and clicked on the video. It was a strange video with a guy doing strange but simple, creative things, I’ve never seen these kinds of videos before. So I went to this guy’s channel and watched a second video and a third video. And I continued watching. I was trying to figure out what this guy is up to. And then I realized it:

The Happiness and the Joy is in the Smaller Things in Life. What this guy, Tor Eckhoff, is doing on his Youtube channel, apetor, is basically having a naive, childlike approach to life. He is more than 50 years old but he is having a fresh,  inquisitive, creative approach to the world around him. He is living in a small city, somewhere on the long, rugged and fjord like coast of Norway but this is not stopping him to find fun ways to discover the environment that surrounds him and to live a full and interesting life. Somewhere on the path of growing up we lose our child-like view of the world, something small like a puddle of water or mud, ice and snow, a frog, a butterfly, a flower, a stick, would excite us and trigger our imagination and make us come up with fun ways of using them because that’s how children discover the world that surrounds them. Everything is new and exciting for a child, everything is interesting and worthy of exploration. Somewhere on the line we lose this simple joy derived from simple and small things, we lose the Joie de vivre, the Joy of Life, we start acting like adults in a world where there are less and less discoveries to be made. We start learning how the world works and we start forming mental models that most probably stick with us our whole lives and in this process things start to look “Deja vu”, already seen, they start to excite us less and less and to lose their flavor.

Kids and curiosity

“The World used to be a bigger place”.

Well, anyway, less words and more action. This is Tor’s Youtube chanel, it’s called apetor. And here are some examples of his videos.

 

First snow and an ice cold bath

Trip to Mountain

Trip to Oslo