Saturday, October 27, 2012

What about kindness?

I have been quite busy lately and my days were very stressful. However, I would never let someone else pay for it. But there seem to be a lot of people that vent their spleen on others.

I was wondering, what about social responsibility, politeness, kindness? Are these values not of importance anymore? Or have they ever been?

There is one of my neighbours (he has an apartment in the same house) who for some reason doesn’t seem to like either me or every woman or every human being. Whenever I meet him, I smile and say hello but the best I did get to hear so far was a grumpy mumbling. Most times he doesn’t reply at all and just gives me a disapproving glance. At the beginning I thought that maybe he was just having a bad day but he keeps behaving like that every time I meet him. One time, he was entering the building right in front of me and instead of holding the door open, or at least pushing it open, he slammed it right in my face.
And this is just one example of strangers behaving unfriendly without any apparent reason.
No one says you have to be a saint. But you really don’t have to be one to follow very few rules of politeness. I mean, even if you had a bad day or don’t feel like engaging in long talks to your neighbours (which I usually don’t even intend), could you not at least reply to a greeting?

I have been reading an excerpt from a book about former differences between liberty and freedom. According to this text, in very short terms, liberty used to be an idea of independence and separation, it was rather a privilege that can be taken away (it is maybe that which we understand as liberty today). In contrast, freedom meant the right to belong to and join a certain group of free people and to care about them, to respect their rights, and it was something that must be given.
These sentences made me think: “In modern America too many people have forgotten this side of our inheritance. They think of liberty as license without responsibility, and freedom as entitlement without obligation. To think this way in the modern world is to remember only half of these ancient traditions.”

I think you always have to be careful about how to interpret any texts about social responsibility as they can easily be misapplied in order to support insane ideologies.

However, what do you think about this? Not only regarding America, but the world in a whole, do you agree?

Not referring to this text, but to the topic in general, this is my point of view : I believe that being polite is very important.
More than that, I believe that we should do something good for others. I believe in kindness, generosity and in sharing joy and happiness.
I really believe that one can do something good for others, even if it is only by means of a smile. (See also this post: Smiling at Strangers) And I believe that, even if it is only a small good deed, it can make a huge difference.
There are people who say that one single person can’t make a difference anyway, that this is all just idealism and that it would be better to just care for yourself.
Of course, my action doesn’t make a huge difference for humankind. But you have to start somewhere, after all. Furthermore, it might make difference for a few people, and even if it does only for one person, it is totally  worth it.

Yes, perhaps, in this regard, I am a dreamer or an idealist. But having dreams doesn’t mean that I don’t know reality, or what seems to be reality. It doesn’t mean that I don’t know about all the horrible things happening on earth. I might be young, but I have made some experiences that I would not wish for anyone to experience and I know that there are happening things that are even a lot worse. So, believe me, I do know reality and I do know that I can’t change it all. But I do also know that there are a lot of opportunities to spread a little joy and to brighten someone's day.
I believe in a lot of things, love, friendship, kindness. I believe in caring families, although I know the "ideal" family hardly exists. I believe in changing lives for the good.

I have hopes and dreams, but that doesn’t mean I live in a world of dreams.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What does happiness mean to you?

A few months ago, someone asked me: What does happiness mean to you?
I still don’t have a definite answer to that.
My first thought is always that it might be all the small things in life that make us happy. These things we happen to see at a usual day, like a genuine smile, or some beautiful flowers, or laughing with friends.

But isn’t this rather joy than happiness? In my opinion, it is. So, what is happiness?

Is it all these things together? Are we happy if we have a lot of joyful moments in our lives? Is happiness the ability to enjoy these moments?

Happiness seems to be a rather permanent state. When someone asks you “Are you happy?” it is usually meant “Are you satisfied with your life?” rather than “Do you feel joyful at the moment?” At least, that’s how it would be understood in German.
But can happiness really be permanent? Is that even possible? If we were in a state of permanent and infinite happiness, would we even know we were happy? To know what being happy means, we must also know the opposite.
Furthermore, humans seem to have infinite needs. Given this, can they ever be perfectly happy?
While writing this, I remember the differences between English and German. In German, there is more or the less the same translation for luck and happiness, that is “Glück”. Being happy would be translated with “glücklich sein”. But “Glück haben” means to be lucky, whereas happiness in “What does happiness mean to you?” is also translated with Glück.

If this is so closely related, does that mean happiness is something we have no influence on? Can’t we affect it at all? Does it only depend on how lucky we are?
Or is it rather a way of how we see things? Does it depend on one's ability to focus on the good things in life? Is it a combination of both?
Is there someone in this world who is perfectly happy?

However, to answer this, first there should be an idea of what happiness is. If it really is something like a permanent condition, happiness cannot be the same as joy, because joy is not permanent, provided that there are not just ups but also downs in life.

But then what is it that makes us happy? Is that different for everyone, is it totally subjective and relative? Or are there certain things in life that decide on everyone’s happiness? Is it love, friendship, family? Or success? What about money? What I always considered quite interesting is the fact that the pursuit of happiness is mentioned in the US Declaration of Independence. According to an American lecturer of a seminar I had last semester, this refers mainly to property. Clearly, for that you need to have money.
In my opinion, money can certainly make a lot of things easier and by that I mean that it helps if you have enough to be able to pay for your bills and all the necessary things in life without having to worry about it permanently. However, I would never equate money with happiness.
I really don't think you need to be rich in order to be happy. Anyway, if you had to be rich to be happy, the majority of people would never be happy and this is something I refuse to believe.

So, maybe what makes us happy is just everything that makes us smile. Maybe it is indeed all the simple things in life, or rather things that we too often consider as self-evident and given and that are actually not at all simple. Things like having true friends or a supportive family, or being healthy. Maybe it means to enjoy life and its good moments.
What does it mean to you? What makes you happy?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Are you proud of your country?

While walking across the town I go to university, I can often see people with German flags or caps with the German flag on it, especially during summer time. Seeing these signs, you can be sure they are tourists. Germans don’t wear such things, except during the time of the World Cup. Actually, while the German football team plays, you can see flags everywhere, especially on cars, but these flags disappear as soon as the event is over.

I also observe the American elections. By doing this, and by studying and reading in general, I noticed that patriotism seems to play an important role in America and also in Great Britain. In fact, I think it is specifically important for Americans and, in contrary to Germany, it is considered as something absolutely positive and indespensable.
This is very different in Germany. Due to our past, we became extremely careful with things like national pride. Although these times are gone and most people who were living that time are dead, this has not changed. Most people don’t feel proud when they think of Germany and patriotic statements are always handled very critically. At the same time, there are people who say that this is all exaggerated and that Germany should start to feel something like national pride again, as long as it doesn’t convert into nationalism.
I am not really sure about what to think of all these discussions. On the one hand, our generation is not responsible for what happened during the National Socialism. On the other hand, it is definitely a good thing to be sensitive regarding these topics. It seems that Germany knows only extremes.

Should Germans develop patriotism again?

My personal point of view is the following. I don’t really feel proud of my country. It’s not that I don’t like it though. Nowadays, there are definitely a lot of positive things here. I mentioned that there are a lot of tourists in my university town and I must admit that it is a quite beautiful town, especially during summer. But I don’t really understand that concept of national pride.
In my opinion, to be proud of something, you have to achieve something or you must have had some influence on the thing you are proud of.  What exactly are people proud of when it comes to Germany?
Moreover, there have already been so many problems in this world because people somehow think their country is superior to others.  I do not understand why people keep thinking this. After all, they didn't even choose to be born in that country.
Maybe it is not bad to support the country you are living in by being proud of it, as long as this doesn't include debasing other countries.

So, although I like that town, I am not proud of it because there hasn’t been any contribution on my side. However, somehow it doesn't seem to be inappropriate when other people are proud of their country, it seems to be natural for other nations.
What do you think of patriotism?
Are you proud of your country? If so, why?
I would love to hear some other opinions and I am willing to change my mind, so please feel free to share your view.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Are you extraordinary?

A few days ago, I talked to a friend about university which somehow turned into a not very serious discussion about whether he was exceptionally smart (he said he wasn’t). Eventually, we ended up arguing about the meaning of being extraordinary.

So, in his opinion, to be extraordinary you have to belong to the absolute top of something, regardless of what we are talking about, for example, you have to be a Einstein or Newton or Shakespeare to be really great and extraordinary in what you do. His definition was rather very exclusive. In contrast, I said I believe that there are a lot of ways to be extraordinary and that we can all be extraordinary in something.
This whole discussion made me think a little further. I mean, is there really something like being extraordinary? Are we not all at some point extraordinary? No one of us is the same and especially for friends or loved ones we are unique. In fact, we are all unique. But, on the other hand, what about persons like Einstein? Would you say they were ordinary, nothing special? You certainly can’t say that either.
Anyway, what is ordinary? There certainly is an average height or age of all persons you can measure, but it is more difficult when it comes to the personality or abilities of people. Besides, what does an average age say? Relating to this, are you extraordinary when you are younger or older than the average number? I am certainly not a statistics expert but you don’t have to be one to know that the mean average of something doesn’t necessarily indicate much without further information. And even if there is, this is not about statistics. How would you measure a person’s uniqueness?

Moreover, do we really have to be extraordinary? Do we always have to belong to the absolute top? Do we have to be better than everyone else? There is always someone that is “better”, so if you really want to be the best at everything, you will never be happy.
That friend also said that to be content or proud of himself, he would need to be the best and, for instance, not just the best in his university but in the whole world. He also admitted that this is very unlikely to happen but that it is a good way to improve his accomplishments constantly. Maybe it is, but I think you can be happy with what you have achieved and improve at the same time.
Instead of being the best compared to everyone else, would it not be better to focus on your own aims? I think we automatically always compare ourselves to others, I do that too. And maybe this is the only way to evaluate ourselves and improve what we do. But instead of looking at the other ones, sometimes it would just be better to focus on our personal aims. When my friends and I graduated from school, we had all very different grades, but we were all happy because we had all managed to reach our own personal goal (or at least most of us). And isn’t this enough?

On the other hand, of course, without comparing, there wouldn’t even be such things as grades, thus it is necessary to value anything.
In my opinion, it is in human’s nature to always strive for more, but in the end we’ll just have to accept that we can’t always be the best.

So, even if we can’t be the best, can we be extraordinary? Are we all extraordinary persons because everyone has something at which he or she is especial compared to others? Or is this something that refers to very few persons only? After all, the term extraordinary indicates this.
Is there such a thing or are we all unique? Or is being unique something totally different? Maybe everyone is unique but not everyone can be extraordinary.
Do you think you are extraordinary? Do you want to be?
What does being extraordinary mean to you?

My friend and I still didn’t agree in the end and although there is probably no right answer and it all depends on different definitions and points of views, I would love to hear some other opinions, ideas, experiences or whatever you have to say.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My Liebster Blog

First, a little side note here: I'm back at university at Friday because the new semester begins and although I had a holiday job during semester break (so I wasn't just sitting around either), I'll have less time from then on. Good news is, I hope to have a lot of inspiration for new posts. But I'm going to have less time to write them, being at university all day. However, I'll try to post at least once a week.

Secondly, I felt honestly surprised but honoured and happy to be nominated for the Liebster Blog Award. Thank you so much for nominating me, Epsita! This is a link to her blog:

Liebster Blog is actually German and means something like dearest or favorite blog.

According to the rules, I am supposed to answer the following 11 questions:
1.       What genre do you usually write in?
This is difficult, I write about everything that comes into my mind and that seems to be important for me. I would say it is mainly personal but about general topics.
2.       What is your favorite book and why?
I like to read different kind of books , so that's hard to choose. But one that I really like is Macbeth from Shakespeare. It’s fascinating and every time I read it I discover something new. Plus, I just love Shakespeare’s use of language.
3.       Which color best describes you?
Difficult again, I have no idea what color describes me best. I like blue though.
4.       What makes you feel blessed?
It makes me feel blessed when I visit the children I used to coach and they are happy to see me. And laughing with friends.
5.       Cake or Chips?
I am not sure what kind of chips this is referring to (chips as in fish and chips or crisps) so I choose cake.
6.       Your favorite quote?
I don’t have one favorite quote but I’ll choose this one from Macbeth:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
             That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
             And then is heard no more: it is a tale
             Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
             Signifying nothing.
7.       If given a chance what would you like to change in you and why?
I am sometimes very insecure and not really self-confident in big groups with people I don’t know, I would like to change that.
8.       Love writing or reading?
Both, I couldn’t choose between one of them.
9.       What tops your shopping list?
Food and things for university. I am trying to save money so I avoid buying any unnecessary things.
10.   What keeps you busy?
My studies at university.
11.   The best thing you have learned as a Blogger?
There are a lot of wonderful people with great and interesting opinions out there and there is really a lot I can learn yet.

The next thing I have to do is list 11 things about me. Here they are:

1.       I dream of visiting as many parts of the world as possible.
2.       Actually I have been thinking about moving to the UK some day.
3.       I used to draw a lot but it takes me a lot of time until I am content with my work, so I became too impatient to draw anymore.
4.       I find it difficult to tell something about me that is not totally boring.
5.       When I was a kid, I didn’t want to ask other people about things I didn’t know, so I just invented a lot of crazy but creative theories in my mind (which later turned out to be nonsense) to explain things to myself.
6.       Although I love travelling and getting to know other countries, I am really bad at geography.
7.       I don’t like playing soccer (which is the most popular sport in Germany), but I do judo.
8.       In my family, I am the only one with green eyes (or green blue, I'm not sure), all the other family members I know have brown ones.
9.       When I was a little kid, my father used to read from a book to me before I went to sleep and most of the time it was the same book. I still know parts of it by heart.
10.   Friends are the most important thing for me.
11.   Although I am a quite good swimmer, I am totally afraid of jumping into water. I am scared of heights but only if there is water below me, which makes of course no sense, as there are greater chances of surviving than without water.

Now comes the best part, which is nominating the other blogs. Unfortunately, some of my favorite blogs have more than 200 followers and I have to choose blogs with less, but nonetheless these are some really great blogs. They are awesome and definitely worth a visit! So, my award goes to (and there is no particular order):

Rum-Punch Drunk 

A Brainless Nod  

Inspired by Gabriel 

Children of the Three Suns  

The American Rose
If you want to accept it, these are the rules:
Answer 11 question given to you by the person awarding you.
State 11 things about yourself
Nominate up to 11 bloggers who have less than 200 followers
Inform them of the nomination.

And my questions to you:
1. If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?
2. Is there something or someone that inspires you?
3. What are you afraid of?
4. What do you like most about yourself?
5. Do you prefer living in the city or in the country?
6. Who is your favorite author?
7. In school, did you ever copy homework from someone?
8. What was the last thing that made you smile?
9. What is one of your biggest dreams?
10. Why did you start blogging?
11. What would you do first if you won the lottery?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Quote of the week #8

The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.

Robert Cushing

We all have or had moments in our lives where we were unhappy about certain things, we wanted them to be different, we wanted change. But at the same time we are afraid of taking a risk. We think about the consequences, which is of course necessary. But don’t you think that sometimes you have to risk something? Do you rather choose the more comfortable way? Do you think of everything bad that could happen and then decide not to “jump in”? Or do you agree with what the quote says?

Today, I went through some of my old diaries, or whatever you can call them, as they were just books where I wrote down some of my thoughts before I had a blog. The oldest ones are from 2002 and contain just some very insignificant stories from a little child. But there are also more serious entries from the last years. While reading some of them, I realized that there have been a lot of changes during the last year that are mostly invisible for other persons. I have learned so much in this year.
Exactly a year ago I moved away from my hometown to begin with my studies at university. There were a lot people that tried to convince me it would be easier to not move away and to stay at my parents’ house. Besides, some people were saying I shouldn’t choose a Chinese course and instead learn another language because Chinese is too difficult to learn.
I thought a lot about it and I came to the conclusion that this one time I would do exactly what I thought would be the best for me and do what I wanted to do. I have never regretted once that I made this decision and I am glad to be responsible for myself. I knew it was not going to be easy, as my parents made very clear they wouldn’t support me if I moved away, nonetheless I am absolutely convinced it was the best decision I could make. Certainly, I’m having some hard times as well, especially when I have to pay my tuition fee, as I don’t get any financial support at the moment and it’s hard to find a job while being at university from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. most days. But it could definitely be worse. I mentioned in some earlier posts the difficult relationship to my family, so there was no way I could have been happy while still living there.
When reading my old diary entries, I can see that I really went through some personal growth this last year. I was surprised at how I have seen things before and how unhappy I was and I am happy I did something to change it.
And about Chinese, it turned out to be the course in which I have the best grades, as it is something I am really interested in.

There have been several moments in my life where I had to make the decision of taking a risk and try something I was afraid of because I have never done it before or because I knew it could be difficult. But whenever I chose to do it anyway, it turned out to be the right decision. Are these not the moments that make our lives exciting?

Do you rather like to choose the safe way that you already know everything about or do you take some risks? Did you ever regret your decisions?

In my opinion, a lot of people want to change something in their lives, they want things to become better but they don’t want to do something about it. They want progress but they are afraid of change. They are afraid of the unknown. I think you have to dare something, you have to take some chances to move forward. As the quote says, you just have to jump in and scramble through as well as you can. And this is what I am trying to do.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Do you seize the day?

One of my former schoolfellows died last weekend.  He was involved in a car accident, he was just the passenger and the driver probably drove too fast, but there is no proof yet.
He used to be in the same form I was, but he didn’t pass the final exams last year, so he just graduated from school three months ago. He was 19 years old.
I didn’t know him well, I am not even sure whether I ever spoke to him, as we were a lot of pupils and he was not among my friends.
However, I was shocked. 
My sincere condolences go to his family and friends.
I can’t imagine how they feel.

We all know life is short; I know it. I knew that those things happen, I know young people are dying all the time.
But this made me really realize it. Life can be over any time. One minute you’re planning your future, you’re planning how to move to your very first own apartment, to begin with your studies and the next minute you’re just dead. It’s scaring.
It seems silly that we are worrying about all those little everyday things all the time. We are getting upset because of little details, things that don’t matter. We are wasting our time complaining about the most unimportant things while life is in fact a precious gift.

You are annoyed at something? Think about whether this is really so important. Is this really worth it? Somewhere in this world there is someone that just lost their child or their best friend. Now think about it again.  
A good friend of mine once told me that whenever she is annoyed at something she thinks about how this will affect her in two or three years and if the answer is that it won’t at all, it’s just not worth it. I think this is the right approach.

So, seize the day.
I know this is not possible every day, in fact I don’t really know how to do it, as we all have so many duties. We have to go work, we can’t just stay at home because we would like to do something else to seize the day. But I think there is always a way.

There are a lot of sayings that try to convince us that we should live every day as if it was our last one, because some day it will indeed be the last one. I totally agree with the idea of that. But I think it is impossible to do that every day. If this was your last day, would you really spend it at work and maybe clean your house and do the laundry when you are at home? I don’t think so, but yet you have to do it. We can’t just neglect all of our obligations because we would like to have fun instead. But you can attend to your duties and enjoy life at the same time. You can try to focus on everything good that happens in your life, you can appreciate all those things. And you can try to change the things you are not happy about.
Did you ever realize that all those little things you are complaining about are actually not that bad at all? (By the way, I am no exception, this also addresses me.)
Do you have your own way to live your life to the fullest? Is there something you love doing that you do every day? Is there something you really enjoy doing and do you do it often enough? Is there something you always wanted to do but haven’t so far?
Do you really enjoy every day, or better still, every minute of your life?

Do you seize the day?

Despite of all the problems you might face and all the duties you have, take a minute and think about how valuable life is, think about the good things you have.
And don’t forget to tell your loved ones to tell them you love them from time to time.
Life is so short, don’t throw it away. Regardless of your age, it could be over any time. Try to focus on the good things, no matter how small they are.