I started to watch a movie yesterday: Michael Moore’s Where to invade next. While Michael never looked good, on this one he really is ugly (and you have to watch his face half the time). The movie gives a positive message about Italy, Finland (and surely other places but I’ve only watched the first 40 minutes) [which is a negative / critical message for the US].
The world he shows called “Italy” where ‘working class’ people go on 8 weeks of paid holiday yearly and have amazing benefits and 2 hour lunches and all the bosses and CEOs are caring and nice people (as well as everyone smells and looks “right after having sex”) – well, it exists as much as Cuban healthcare superior in every way to US healthcare (Sicko). I lived in Italy, unlike Mr. Moore.
But, it still feels amazing to hear a positive message. When our lives are gradually getting better in so many ways (yes, in Russian and Hungary and Poland and China and most parts of Africa and Brazil and wherever too) we still just moan and bitch about it all.
The other mental food I’ve been taking in lately is Nassim Taleb’s Black Swan which in its beginning has some amazing insights on heroes: “Who is more valuable, the politician who avoids a war or the one who starts a new one (and is lucky enough to win)?” […] We glorify those who left their names in history books at the expense of those contributors about whom our books are silent. We humans are not just a superficial race […]; we are a very unfair one.”
Once I told a bus driver whom I hired for a tour about the fact that humanity was at least twice “one button” away from extinction. (Cuban Missile Crisis; 1983 Soviet nuclear false alarm incident; 1995 Norwegian Rocket Incident, more here.) He looked deep into my eyes: “Doesn’t this make you think about someone up there watching over us?”
I’ll be honest. It totally does not. On the contrary. If there was “someone” helping us he’d surely spare us being one button away from extinction. I hope, at least.
Melting the two parts of this article together without any subtlety or nobility let me just say: I hope in the future there are going to be less and less heroes & once we’ll live in a world where heroes will be as scarce as black swans…
Notice: this is an article for those who don’t have “business” out of the news. If you are a journalist, TV person, politician – then, well, probably you didn’t click here, anyway.
1, it takes plenty of valuable time
2, it’s passive consumption (TV being the most passive way as you can not choose what to watch)
3, it gives you a false idea that you’re globally important (it’s pretty amazing to know what Trump is saying right now but it won’t give you a chance to change)
4, you’ll find yourself reading about eggs of Polynesian tortoises: and forget about it in less than an hour
5, there are news every day but most days nothing really important happens
6, even if something important happens somewhere (let it be a new small planet discovered or genocide in Myanmar), it’smost likely not important for you
7, when something important happens you’ll hear about it anyways, more than you’d want to
& my story:
I was 21, on Erasmus in Calabria, Southern Italy. I didn’t know who was Angela Merkel or Lady Gaga. I didn’t know much of world’s largest criminal organization (‘Ndrangheta) operating out of the region I live in. I wasn’t a global person in this sense.
Paying attention to things in front of my nose let me have more important changes in my mind than knowing global politics: had amazing parties, got together with my future wife, made friends, traveled around, talked to locals, biked to places no one goes to, etc. Can you imagine someone saying on his deathbed: if only I had payed more attention to the news?
It was about 4 years ago that I became interested and a bit involved in matters of general concernments. Soon, I completely stopped playing computer games and decided to read news instead. The one real benefit was talking to people – about daily happenings that weren’t important – but had the sense of importance as they happened just right then – and even made it to the news. I didn’t really become smarter or got a broader view from it. (But I could argue more effectively as I could relate to very recent happenings.)
Then a couple weeks ago, before our Hungarian elections I followed news every day for over an hour. I did it because I participated. This month was frustrating and the election being over (a defeat for people like me) was like a breath of fresh air as I disconnected from the daily flow of infinite – and mostly useless information.
Following the news is just like any other useless addiction for me. I was more up-to-date (unlike I’d been with a computer game or passive social media consumption) but it had nothing to do with my life goals.
I can only recommend not following the news at least for a month – and see how it goes from there.
I’m planning to lead my life based on the following values (in no particular order):
– constant intellectual growth and challenges:
– visiting new places
– meeting new, inspiring people
– reading new books, watching new movies
– create (writing)
– work challenges (e.g. new company)
– stand by family and friends (in particular my wife and son)
– actively working for a peaceful world (at the moment through education)
But they make sense because they only cover a tiny part of the world (I know, way broader than “I’ll bring 1 million people to Mars” or “I’ll research independent regulatory functions of Zcchc11”.
And what they don’t cover – I don’t want to care about.
I’m narrowing down my interests. It’s not easy but I’m leaving behind things I could do – and believe to be able to do well. But I’m trying to make a difference and focusing means letting go.
The apropo of this article is that working with a group for a couple days away from home and my child gave some perspective, energy to think and a couple nights of quality sleep.
Let’s see how it will work to fit the big ideas into the everyday reality…
I’m breaking my promises by writing about something that’s not becoming part of my book. But, what the hell.
Yesterday was election day in Hungary. The most saddening and least likely result (for me!) came out: practically things stay as they are (the extreme right wing governing party reached 2 third of the votes, the left got weaker, the right got stronger).
Today has been a very unmotivated day (I’m practically never ill but today I couldn’t eat). Oh yeah, I’m never unmotivated either.
The words that can describe my mood the most are: bitter helplessness and mental hangover.
It was a great reality check: people in Hungary are not like me. I’ve known that 80% doesn’t speak English. Probably <0,001% has an English language blog. People don’t have foreign wives. People don’t live in inner Budapest. People worry about paying bills. People, people, people – and me.
I’ve been politically active recently: going to demonstrations, talking to people, creating memes, sharing articles, writing opinions, offering a ride to my grandparents, etc.
Well, we: city people, international people, English speaking people: we lost today big time in Hungary.
And this article doesn’t lead anywhere.
Minimalist it is. Happy it is not.
But you know what: I’m a little bit proud to be unhappy. Once I read a book about Nazi Germany during the war and the protagonist said: “it’s only fools who are happy in times like these”.
I am not convinced any more (at all) that personal happiness is the ultimate goal. In times like these it’s time to look into yourself and see what you can do when you are back to your enthusiastic self.
I’m not going into politics. I’m not founding a new party.
But I’m ready to make a difference. Probably through education, radically expanding the program of EU lectures in Hungary and in Europe.
Wish me luck!
Daniel, who grew a 1 year older today….
I used to write a lot when I was younger: 14 to my early 20s: including a novel, a short(er) novel and probably over a hundred short stories and maybe a dozen poems. And hundreds of pages of diaries. It was about art, emotions, love, easing anger – and of course, self-expression.
In March 2016, however I decided to write partly to change the world with it (no, not to topple political systems and start or end civil wars) – but to express my opinion on public issues. One of my first articles (and the most read and shared) was on Muslims & terrorism. The project ended with the 100th article as planned and it took a little while to “put myself together” again and narrow down my topic.
In November the same year I’d begin on new waters: writing in English and having let a lot of topics go I’d focus on self-improvement (whatever it really is). This is when Minimalist Happiness began. It was supposed to be a 1 year long project with about an hour dedicated to it daily on average but I’m still writing it.
And I can’t say I’m running out of topics (I have over 300 article ideas saved) but I’ve run out of topics to research more in depth. I feel more fascination now with successful writers who take their time to write long form articles (Mark Manson, Wait but Why) although they seem to have their limit too (Wait but Why’s last article came out a year ago!).
I feel that I’ve said it all – because I’ve found ways to proactively participate and make a change with direct actions:
– I’m a father for almost 4 months and I raise my child with my wife
– I’ve founded a “part-time” company with a friend
– I’m trying to extend greatly an education program I’m managing
– with elections coming up in a week I’ve got way more involved than in the rest of those “4 year” blocs…
Writing is great – I’m still working on the book that aims to sum up the 16 (12?, 11?, 14?) most important things I’ve learned in life. I still believe I have thousands of pages in me – but in a relatively open society like today’s with so much to do and change and opportunities to do that: I think writing’s getting a break for a while.
Hope it’s all right with you: I’m always up for a conversation, anyways! 🙂
“Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter could be said to remedy anything.” (Kurt Vonnegut)
Money. Fitness. Body. Enterprising. Marketing. Travel. Problem solving. Leaving your comfort zone. […]
Topics all self-improvement readers know too well. But the more you think, read, talk about these (or hey, other) ideas, there’s a big danger: you’ll start taking yourself dead serious. You will find yourself more valuable because of the thousands or millions your earn, because of the weights you lift, because you’ve been to over 100 countries in the world, etc.
Alone at home, in the evening with your partner or friend(s) or family: leave this all behind. [I’m not saying we are all equal or equally important, at all. Yet, measurable metrics as the above ones cause arrogance, condescension, egotism, often smugness. /Consult your doctor or pharmacist about risks and undesired side effects./]
It was just 2 months ago when I began to write a serious article (about my top 10 movies) and I couldn’t help but notice 2 out of ten were spoof comedies and a couple others were often described as comedies. I was surprised. Am I not the constantly looking, self-developing and improving, writing, organizing, managing guy?
Not only. When I certainly L-O-V-E to fool.
A culture coming from my father and mother (I’m not sure I’ve ever heard people laughing so much – and on such silly jokes as they do) and it was continued with my friends and partners. Fooling make me believe the world is a great place where there is nothing else to do for me – but to laugh and enjoy myself. I hope more and more people feel this…
I remember one particular occasion, meeting my best friend at his place at 10 pm. I really had to share with him the day’s saddening story from the same girl who was giving me saddening stories for years. But his sarcastic face (one of his memorable jokes being about the non-existent but very visual description of the diarrhea of the girl) and his body language convinced me that it just did not matter. So he started another story. And I had another one. We both had something to say all the way until the morning when I had to leave. We never went to sleep and talked the night through… …and I did not manage to tell the story (it’d needed 15-20 minutes of focused time). That night, although I can’t recall more than what I wrote here, is a top memory, an all-time high. It showed the best of a safe, pleasant, free, young, healthy world in and around me. All I needed was a friend…
“Laughs are exactly as honorable as tears. Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion, to the futility of thinking and striving anymore. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” (Kurt Vonnegut)
My best friend told me 10 years ago that the primary force in me was hunger for freedom. It’d difficult and probably misleading to try to explain what freedom means to me.
Rather, I try to give an account of my greatest moments of freedom. (You might have realized that the last articles were very personal. I have been writing a book about my own life experiences and these articles will be used for it. It’ll end relatively soon. You’re stuck with the very personal stuff for now though.)
Freedom from love – I can clearly remember the moment when I first felt free. A simple walk from home on the same street I’d take every day. And yet another sunny day with my 15 year old body suddenly becoming hopeful, healthy – and as easy as a feather taken by the warm spring breeze.
All of it happened inside my head but I finally let love, suffer, depressive and suicidal thoughts levitate away. Finally, I could define myself a young, positive, conscious teen, ready for life. That walk was a true beginning of a new era.
Freedom from home: travel – travel has become a synonym for freedom. And while traveling is freedom from the everyday routine, you often choose other, limiting ideas: (company, guidebooks, highlights, tick off places / countries from some imaginary list, etc.): because really being free from all constraints is just frightening. It’s a serious moment alone with the universe. Most people would pay plenty to avoid this.
But travel still holds way more chances to experience freedom than being at home. I remember biking in Transylvania, not sticking to the group on a perfect summer day, admiring the landscape. I didn’t think of the past or the future, just immersed fully in the present. One of those moments when you exactly know that you are at the best place at the best time in the universe.
Another moment was crossing the Polish-Lithuanian border by bike, alone. Lithuania was a place back then that none of my friends have ever been (or considered going). Lithuania was very far from Hungary. And I made it there alone, by bicycle, riding for more than 10 days North. It was a beautiful sunset that I couldn’t enjoy because of masses of mosquitoes. Being one of the 3 nights out of 37 when I bothered to set up my tent, on the top of a small hill and getting down to write my diary remains one of my purest experiences in life.
Freedom from parents’ and friends’ expectations – a couple hours before moving from home, I didn’t know I’d go ahead. A month after my 18. birthday with the catalysator of an unimportant argue with my parents I’d just leave. It was a long dream coming true and the feeling of being powerless and passive never returned to my life. A similar (though rather sad than triumphant) feeling came when we broke up with my girlfriend. A similar great emotion had such effect on me that I had to hit the wall until my fist bled when a friend made me realize I didn’t have to spend more time with my classmates: because there is better company out there. Or the several. Se-ve-ral occasions of getting tipsy and drunkwas another important moment of freedom, no joke.
Freedom of body – not matter what they say, humans are animals. Developed animals that think with their brain (most of the time) and listen to their instincts too. Animals, that are alive as long as their body functions: by definition. It would be unwise to say that our body does not have everything to do with our moods, thoughts, ideas, feelings: let it be hunger or freedom. And our body can give us enormous freedom. Let it be a morning exercise, running 30 kms or having your first orgasm. Don’t tell me you don’t remember it. Wasn’t that properly relieving? Wasn’t that at least a moment of complete freedom?
Freedom of together– I used to have a strict theory in which individuals were able to reach freedom while 2 people together were already regarded “society”. And I’d think: society is full of sin, murder, dirt while an individual is always right and sacred. Later I’d come to the conclusion that the basic issue (call it original sin if you wish) is in every single individual. There is not one person that can live in harmony with himself and the world. Two or three neither.
But getting over your own self can be something liberating. Freedom from loneliness in cases of company of drinking partners, a best friend, a romantic relationship and to extend your personality beyond yourself – by having children, to feel part of the universe or any other way you choose. For me, apart from being a friend, a husband, a father practical aspects like volunteering and charity (becoming free from my own earnings’ grip) have worked.
What are your greatest moments of freedom?
Let us know in a comment, on Facebook or in an email: email@example.com
2014, 2017 – South East Asia: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Bali, Myanmar, Vietnam
Stepping outside the airport in Bangkok in winter, 2014 changed my view of the world more profoundly than any lecture, movie, book or person did before. It was the heat (coming from cold winter), the smells (they really are terrible), the dozens of antipathetic touts yelling into my face, the traffic (in-cre-di-ble) and everything else that unfolded the next weeks: religion, behaviour, poverty, architecture, smiles, friendliness, openness next to ridiculous and constant scams, prostitution, constant bargaining (sometimes quoted prices were 100-fold (!) of the price of a competitor!), etc.
The cultural shock was even bigger because we thought this was the one and only long trip of our lives outside of Europe. We thought we were the only ones who were able to get away this long (hehh: we were asked all the time: why only 4 weeks?!) and we wanted to make the best out of it.
All that I learned during this travel was burned into my body thanks to a tough tropical illness called amoebiasis. The tough part was over a month with various antibiotics and the complete recovery (being able to drink Hungarian pálinka and other distilled alcohol just like before) took 2 years. Laying at home utterly weak was the first time in my life that I wished to have children. Other than the sickness (and possible my instincts of reproduction kicking in) I was inspired by seeing the families in rural Cambodia that seemed to have nothing but each other. Observing them killed much of my (anyway beaten down) wish for a career per se.
Returning to the region in 4 years was surprisingly great. Rather than losing its charm we could dig deeper.
Bali surprised us as being a bite from Paradise when we managed to get away from the crowds and long, littered beaches. And the locals? You got to be tough, being the only place in a large country that’s not Muslim.
Singapore felt like the Israel of South-East Asia in the good sense: a living example of the success of controlled & encouraged immigration of professionals (and tax havens, hehe).[BTW: don’t believe about crazy order, police, people not crossing red lights, etc. Much has changed since the ’80s…]
Myanmar was a sort of continuation of our earlier adventure with even more “third world stuff” and unspoiled / non-touristic moments too.
Vietnam, with its C-R-A-Z-Y traffic, cult of USA, rocket-fuel-filled energy, incredible nature, smiley and grateful people was yet another place I hope to return.
2015 & 2016 – South America
The most surprising things of South America were:
– culture: how extremely European it was (mostly language and religion) – although farther from Europe than SE Asia it didn’t bring anything close to the cultural shock I experienced before…
– nature: how superior it was to anything I’ve ever seen.
– distances: I already began to suspect earlier but it was here that I finally realized how small Europe was (point of reference: Brazil alone is almost twice as big as the 28 countries of the European Union together…)
My favourite countries were Bolivia and Peru.
2015 – Iceland Iceland is a super-sparsely populated place. 300 thousand people (200.000 in the capital!) in an area where 10 million live in Hungary. And it’s not very dense here either. The big learning here was that there are places that are just completely out of the whole game…
No military, no cities or towns other than Reykjavik, 80% of the country is unapproachable, a sunset lasts 5 hours while even the warmest summer days are freezing, people believe in elves and so on and so forth. Iceland seemed more of a different continent from Europe than South America. This was probably our first trip where locals played a key role: we did Couchsurfing as many times as we could and set the itinerary on the way depending on the accepted couch-requests. (I wrote an article about it here.)
2016 & 2018 – Middle-East: Israel, Palestine, Jordan & Lebanon I remember one of the closing scenes of the movie Body of Lies where one says, quite like an axioma: No one likes the Middle-East.
If it had to live there (apart from Israel & Beirut from what I’ve seen) it would probably be pretty terrible.
But traveling is always something different. Apart from ruins of the antiquity (e.g. the largest Roman temple in Baalbek, Lebanon), the fascinating history of the 3 monotheistic religions in Jerusalem (walking in the footsteps of Jesus? No matter that I’m atheist, count me in!), the incredibly history of modern and present-day conflicts within and across borders & meeting those people of whom you hear a lot in your TV: fascinating people.
Hatred, intolerance, passion, enthusiasm, open-mindedness and mental cages: boiling emotions on every corner. I’ll return! (one of my articles was inspired by the night we spent with the Bedouins in Southern Jordan)
2017 – Hungary
If you’ve read this long you probably know that I’m Hungarian. I come from Szeged, the third largest place in the country with 200.000 people and live in Budapest, the capital with 1,7 / 3+ million people (city proper / metropolitan area).
I’ve experienced little from the rest of the country and when I did, I looked at the place as “It’s my country, I know it well. If something doesn’t fit, it’s an accident. I KNOW THIS COUNTRY.”
As I traveled more and more in the world I grew to realize how little I know about my home country and its people. Last years day-trips to all directions from Budapest, topped with volunteering in a Rroma segregated community, holding lectures (about EU & its opportunities for young people) in different villages, towns and cities and bike-guiding for 10 days with a group of tourists in the countryside made me realize why my country runs as it does. Enlightening moments that I hope didn’t finish last year.
I finish this saga here. It’s hard to draw a line during which travels I gained a “major” or “most important” insight but I have to say I never regretted visiting to a destination or spending money on travelling. If unsure, travel quick and return to the places you fell in love with. I sure am happy that I didn’t spent more than 40 minutes in Lichtenstein but I feel a little bit more complete for having been there.