In every second
With every breath
Universes expand and collapse
Endless opportunities open up
The countless choices we have
But don’t see
Vanish with the blink of our eye
Due to the trodden paths of our own perception
In seas of limiting beliefs
Of the judgement of others
And Expectations that burden us
Our own creative force
But it’s a choice
That everyone faces
Every single moment
Choose to be the creator
Or be a victim
It is up to you
It’s a jump
Trust is the safety net
And bliss the prize
Painting: Rene Magritte
Our breath the anchor
Between presence in this world
And a sphere where time doesn’t exist
The difference between time and timelessness
The birth of the cosmos
As we understand it
Through the first sound
The beat of a drum
Turning into the never ending
Of the clock on your wall
Sound and time
Conditions to one another
Incapable of understanding the vastness of infinity,
The interconnectedness of self and world
And the paradox of being a creation and creator
Uncomprehending of chronology,
And the illusion of certainty
Finding itself caught in a body
A fine playground to gain experiences
Learning about self and other
Where the self
And the other
Are in fact
Nothing but reflections of the same universal truth
Existence of each individual
Dependent on interaction
Visible only through the light you shed on me
Our unique dynamic
Without a “you”
Without a sound
Without a breath
Painting: Pablo Amaringo
We were driving down the highway
Me on the steering wheel
You next to me
I see your face freeze
As my sister from the back
Merrily touches your hair
Grabbing into it, massaging your skull
“It really feels like sheep’s’ wool!
You’re our family’s little black sheep, sweetie!”
It painfully reminds me
Of how I learned
That I was racist,
When we first met
I used to tell you:
“I don’t think Germans are racist.”
And specifically, I wasn’t racist, of course.
We don’t really have much of a history with Black people in Germany, do we?
What are even the stereotypes we hold of Blacks?
I couldn’t see any issue.
Racists are those Americans
Where policemen shoot Blacks without proper reason
Or the South Africans
With their long history of Apartheid
But with time
I learned to understand the kind of racism
That left scars in your heart
Isn’t just the punch in the face
The angry yell
Or the shot of a gun
The hundred unthoughtful remarks
The curious gazes
And the closed doors
That you encounter
Because of the colour of your skin
The frizzy hair
The full lips
When I say:
You dance so well
You got the rhythm in your blood
Probably from your tribal festivals
When the photos I bring back home
Portrait only the mud huts of the Massai
But not the skyscrapers of Nairobi
When I say
You’re so good in bed
Much more driven by your instincts
Wild, like an animal
That feeds stereotypes
Tells the same old story
Of Africa as the uncivilised continent
With people close to nature
So head-driven like us
So materialistic like us
Cause in the end
What does that mean?
Underdeveloped, underprivileged and less intelligent
Just put in a different way
Ignorance is bliss
Are those who are unintended racists
Ignorant of the pain they cause
The catch 22 is this:
The ignorant doesn’t know about his ignorance
I was ignorant
And I learned my lessons
The world will only become a less racist place
Who is racists without intend
Gets the chance to learn their lesson
That even well-intended, even curious remarks
Can cause another scar
Awareness can only happen
By making what may seem obvious
Visible to those
Who don’t see it,
(Painting: Sam Spratt)
"Whenever I want to laugh, I read a wonderful book, 'Children's Letters to God.' You can open it anywhere. One I read recently said, 'Dear God, thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy."
(Quote: Maya Angelou, Photos: Tanja Schomann)
When I’m mad, I’m like a storm
In the evening of a hot summer day
My angry voice
Awakes the neighbours
Makes people shudder
Vases, like lightning, hit the ground
My lust a humid day in the jungle
My arms like lianas
Wild and untameable
Grabbing what they long for
The smell of plants and the earth
The song of birds, the roar of a feline
All senses focussed
Sweat dripping down the body
My sadness is like the monsoon
In a big Indian town
It pours and pours
and won’t stop
Mascara runs down my cheeks
Like the splashes of a dirty puddle
On a white summer dress
The vortex of misery
Is sweeping down the streets
We are two
You and me
I’m like the seasons
Change is unavoidable
Hope and fear, love and hate
I try them on and let them pass
Like the leavy dress of a tree
They come and go
Are not a fan of seasons
When the thunder hits your ear
You say I’m dramatic
The heat of the jungle makes you drowsy
And you want to move back to colder climates
The running tears of the monsoon
Leave you overwhelmed, soaked and uneasy
I’m too much for you
You’d be much better off
In a stable climate
Composed and understanding
Like sunny California maybe
But I can’t help myself
I am what I am
With all the intensity
With all the brutal force
And with all the passion
You could be a caring witness
And provide a space
For me to go through my emotions
Natural spectacles aren’t about you
They are about myself
I don’t demand a reaction
I demand acceptance
Embrace the authenticity in it
Embrace me as I am
Painting: Henri Rousseau
Here’s the thing with pain
It is like a spider,
Weaving its net around you,
So tight that you lose your breath,
It’s like a scorpion,
Pushing its poisonous sting into you,
Racing heartbeat, shock
It’s like a boa,
Absorbing you with its massive jaws,
Eating you alive
But then it’s not,
Because you’re in charge
It’s up to you to end it at any point
You can decide to see it not as pain,
But as a challenge
An opportunity for growth
Marcus Aurelius once said:
“Choose not to be harmed -
and you won’t feel harmed
Don’t feel harmed -
And you haven’t been ”
So why would you ever decide to feel harmed?
Instead of choosing strength?
It’s the habit of suffering,
That we are so used to
The momentum of pity,
That drags us along
And jumping off that high-speed train
That the jump will set us free
Yet we decide to be
Captured by the spider
Stung by the scorpion
Swallowed by the boa
Again and again
Instead of choosing liberty
Which is a present reality
At any point
Open to us to embrace
Naked skin. Perfect intimacy, yet so far apart.
The side of my face tightly pressed against your chest.
Kaboom… Kaboom… Kaboom…
“Isn’t it crazy”, I say to you “that our life depends on the rhythmic cramps of this one big muscle in our chest? How the “person” inside us is just gone, when it stops beating?”
I imitate the pumping of a heart with my tiny fist.
Clench, release. Clench, release.
“Mmmhh”, you answer.
I shut up.
I know it’s not exactly a chatty moment, but I like the comfort I get from thinking aloud about topics that distract me from my deeper worries.
Your smell has changed since you came to my house.
From a fresh herb garden and the sea breeze running through the leaves of a coconut palm
To the scent of an angry tiger, moist and acidic.
Ain’t we a match made in heaven?
You tell me your past and I feel you’re talking about myself.
The struggles you went through, the decisions you took.
Your conscious effort to be more than what you were conditioned to be.
The choices you make and your reasoning behind it.
The relationships you foster and the freedom you are fighting for.
The freedom you demand, the freedom you give and the freedom you discover in the nature of being.
The sentences I start and you finish, the co-creation of understanding simplicity.
You clear your throat.
My attention switches back to the present moment, the bed we lie in.
Bliss and embarrassment collide.
So close, so far apart.
The pressure of expectation, the cosiness of your arms and the disenchantment between us.
I wanted you, didn’t I?
When we got to know each other, I wanted you, didn’t I?
When you hugged me, I wanted you, didn’t I?
When you kissed me, I wanted you, didn’t I?
When you ate me, I wanted you, didn’t I?
When you stepped out of bed to grab a condom, I wanted you didn’t I?
Lust is a fragile bond.
Triggered by the mysterious,
kindled by spontaneity,
inflamed by wanting gazes and welcoming touch.
Lust is a fragile bond.
Shaken by doubt,
Hit by reason,
Extinguished by worry.
A match made in heaven,
You’re my mirror.
In our aspirations as much as in our hesitation.
In our spiritual climax as much as in the erotic abyss.
I found this sculpture of Maria & Jesus in the old town of Artà. The red colour on it made me hesitate and take this picture. Technically, it is nothing more than a sculpture of a woman with some red splashes on it. But cultural imprint left its marks on me, so I was wondering whether the red splashes were an act of vandalism or even religious heresy. Did somebody try to make a statement against the church? Was it a member of a different church who acted out of anger? It seemed brutal to me to splash colour on such a meaningful persona as Maria.
But isn't that exactly where so much trouble in our world comes from? We turn random items into "symbols" and give them heavy meanings. Splashing colour on a Maria becomes an act of religious hostility - no matter if the person who did it had this meaning in mind or not.
It reminded me of a situation in which I was the organiser of an event called "Students for Europe". The attendees were - as the name suggests - students from different European countries. We had used flags to decorate some of the tables in the lounge area, which didn't land well on some of the participants. They said we're degrading their countries by misusing the flag as a tablecloth. Again, in the bottom line we were using an actual piece of cloth as a a tablecloth. In our own eyes, there was no deeper meaning or act of hostility involved. The meaning and all those heavy associations are just a societal construct.
I wish more people were aware that all of these heavy meanings are totally made up in the end of the day and that churches, flags, crosses are not inherently what we associate with them. Maybe, if less people were so obsessed with religious and national symbols, we would all live a more relaxed life in this world.
"Friend" is a term that we use for vastly different people in our lives. Some friendships last a lifetime, other just for the time of a holiday. Some friends know all our secrets and others are fun to party with, but we would never open up about intimate topics to them.
Sometimes, I got the impression that only a long-term and intimate friendship is a “real” friendship. This led to me feeling obliged to stay in touch with everyone I had a close connection with for some time. It also made judge those friendships, which are heaps of fun, but rather superficial. I felt that these friendships don’t live up to my standards of deep discussions and soul bonding.
But then I read a quote, which changed everything:
There are friends for a reason, friends for a season and friends for a lifetime.
(author unknown to me)
Basically, the quote takes a lot of pressure from those friendships, which are not “friends for a lifetime”. Let me explain this in more detail.
Friends for a reason are those friends that change your life in one way or the other. A friend for a reason might be a person who you meet at your first Salsa class and who teaches you the first moves of the dance. You click, you have fun together, you learn from your friend. But other than Salsa, you don’t share much. Once you are a good dancer yourself, your reason to meet up with your Salsa friend is gone and you move on.
Friends for a season are those friends, who are part of our daily lives. A friend for a season might be a classmate at high school. You sit next to each other in the classroom and you hang out in the breaks. You have fun discussing the latest gossips with the friend and you help each other with home works. Despite the comforting feeling the friendship gives you, the friendship is not based on common interests, but shared environment. Once the season (high school, your undergrad, the internship,…) is over, the friendship slowly fades away.
Friends for a lifetime, in the other hand, are not necessarily present in our daily lives. These are friends we have an intimate connection with. They know our secrets and no matter for how long we have not seen them, once we start talking to them, we feel like coming home and open up about secrets, plans and dreams.
For me, these categories helped me understand why certain friendships are fine and totally fulfil their purpose, even if they are not friendships for life.
(painting: Auguste Renoir)
It’s so easy to judge people, when you’re in your own environment and in your own comfort zone.
A short while ago, my friend Govoi moved from Kenya to Germany and I was his go-to person during the days when he was settling in. It was his first trip to a Western country. One day, he wanted to come back home by train from his university. I sent him the train connections including directions on how to change from train 7 to train 18 at a station called Neumarkt. At some point, Govi called me and said that there is no train with the number 18. I checked Google maps and another transport app and told him that it MUST be somewhere at Neumarkt and that he should just look on the other side of the road. 20 minutes later, he called me back and said that he tried everything, but he still can’t find his train. I asked him to approach other people around the station and ask where the train leaves. “I don’t even speak German and people stare at me, cause I’m a foreigner”, he replied. “Ok, let me come there to pick you up then”, I replied slightly annoyed. It turned out that train number 18 is a subway train and not an over ground train like the other ones that leave at the station – and Govoi simply didn’t know about subway trains.
Now, to be honest, my first thought was that it can’t be that hard to change trains and that Govoi is clearly a very confused and naive person.
But then I remembered our trips to rural areas of Kenya. I didn’t understand a word of the local languages and it was impossible for me to remember the difficult names of the different villages we were traveling to. What is more, I had no idea how to figure out where the Matatus (minibuses) are going or where to get off. It was a mystery to me how people find their way without bus schedules and roadmaps. I was lost – at least as much as Govoi was lost in Germany.
So, I thought to myself that we easily take the systems that we are used to for granted and we forget that in other parts of the world, things work in entirely different ways. We judge people, because they fail to understand our systems and we act arrogantly when they need our help.
Let’s keep in mind that all foreigners – immigrants, refugees, exchange students – might be helpless in some situations, but at the same time they are more knowledgeable than us in the systems where they originally come from.
(The photo shows Govoi sorting out our transport in Kitale, Kenya)