Norway is a world-leader in terms of engagement in voluntary work, with half the Norwegian population contributing in some way. These efforts benefit both individuals and society in general. It might seem strange that one of the riches countries in the world also has such high numbers when it comes to volunteering, but I find it logical. When you have met the most basic needs, for food, shelter and protection, first then you have the energy or possibility to devote time to other things. In Norway we have manageable working hours, earning enough to live a comfortable life. Off course we have poor people here to, but our social system protects those who cannot work for different reasons. Being a volunteer is good both for others, but also for yourself. I have been a volunteer several times myself, and there really is no feeling like doing something for others without expecting anything in return. Even if I help others in my job, that’s payed work, so It doesn’t always make me feel like I have contributed enough. Volunteering, on the other hand, I do at the cost of my own time that I could have used for recreation.
My son is soon one year, and I plan to take him with me doing volunteer work. In that way he will see the value of doing something for others and experience how that feels. We are so privileged to live here in Norway, so we should appreciate that and do what we can for those who need it.
Time shifts. I take another sip from a crystal glass, the red liquid slithering down my throat. The glass sits on the table, resting. It can do nothing else than be. It has nothing it to do, it just stays put.
Time shifts yet again. I know I have to go soon, to meet two small kids and N. That we will be walking through the woods and eat pancakes. I will be present, quelling the unease and nervousness that is already here. I must look at the trees and remember I have nothing to prove. I am just here, like the trees. There is nothing I can do wrong. I can just be.
When we think about the future and past, we fail to see the now. Every second ticking by is an illusion. There is nothing else than what we experience at this moment. What was before, was the now then. What will become, is another now that we know nothing about. So right now I am sitting in my bed. The glass next to me, more present in the now than I ever can be. I need to breathe, to feel everything around me without trying to change it.
If the earth was devoid of life, it would be meaningless to ask a tree: What time is it? It would laugh, and say: “It`s now!”. While our clock is ticking, we forget that time has no meaning. The only thing that matters is what you do right now.
When we are born, we are innocent. We have had no time to make mistakes, we are just there, trying to understand the world. We grow and learn. Both good and bad. Mostly, we grow up in secure environments and become the people we want to be. But some people don`t. They grow up in unsafe environments where their needs are not met. Far too many experience trauma and must live with it. And what once was a safe, protective womb of water, becomes polluted when we are born.
One of the things I`ve learnt when I was at school is the difference between individualistic and collectivistic cultures. A teacher said that in Asia and other counters where they have arranged marriages, could be compared to a pot of water. When they start their marriage, the water inside the pot is cold. But after a while, it starts to boil and keep boiling as their love grows stronger. In indiviulaistc countries, the opposite happens. We fall in love with fervor, but for many the water cools when everyday life makes us take off our rose-colored glasses.
The pot of water is right now filled with boiling water. In Turkey, Syria and France, hate is making the water almost boil until it spills over. The soil underneath the pot is blackened by the oily water, and the hate runs into rivers and waters. We drink this water, and feel the hate it consists of. But will it stop boiling? Will hate and fear start to fade, and make the water colder. Because right now, we need to turn down the temperature, so we can think clearly. If not, fear in our hearts will lead to irrational decision. And this is especially worrying when fear also seeps into the leaders and politicians who are here to protect us. Terror is here to scare us. And when we are scared, we often respond the only way a scared mind can: By attacking the ones who scares us. When Donald Trump wants to attack and keep the “Muslims” away, he breeds more hate. And then ISIS and other terrorist organizations have even more reasons to continue doing what they do. Terrorism can’t be excused. It is wrong in every way, but we have the chance to keep our heads clear and respond rationally. We can show our sorrow, and we can do everything we can to help the people who lost somebody in the attacks. But we should not respond with violence.
As Gandhi said: There is no way to peace. Peace is the way
I have a really bad headache but hope that the paracetamol will kick in soon. I have so many things to organize! My list is getting shorter every day. Next Tuesday I’m organizing a day in the park for families with free barbeque-food and refreshments. I have to buy a lot of stuff and need to find people willing to volunteer. I have already recruited some people and hope more will be willing to help. In addition to barbequing, there will be face painting and competing. I really hope that the weather will be good! The weather forecast predicts cloudy weather with a bit of sun, but it can suddenly change. If it starts to rain, we can end the event earlier and postpone it. I want to try to organize something like this later this summer, too, and hope that we can get some sponsors. Luckily there are many energetic people here, that want to make life better for others. I hope that organizing activities like these for everyone, will bring people together. Mental health depends on living a meaningful life together with others, and if you manage to inspire anxious and lonely people, they get a chance to heal.
Like I have written before, I want medication to just be a supplement to more extensive therapy. In my view, we also need to change attitudes and prejudices influencing us at an unconscious level. The best way to do this, is by engaging people and empowering them. Marthin Luther King and Gandhi, both inspired others and changed attitudes step by step. So can we.
It has been a wonderful day. It started far too early, when I went to work to attend the first meeting in the morning. I had one conversation with a patient, and then two other meetings and a long lunch with my collages. In between meetings I did some writing that needed to be done, and then I was finally ready for the weekend. 15:30 I drove to a friend who wanted to borrow some clothes, and talked with her for a bit. I then went home for a quick dinner and some relaxation.
I enjoyed myself with “the body keeps the score”, a brilliant book that I probably will reread many times since it`s packed with tips and knowledge.It is like a coffin filled with gold.
Feeling richer from listening to the audiobook, I drove to one of my best friends to watch “The voice”. We talked before the show, and under it. After a while another friend came, and her boyfriend, and we all had a good evening. We tried to plan what we should do together tomorrow, as there will be a big party with events during the day too. I will go to the library, pick up the new bike I have bought, and then go to the city centre for free concerts. Later I will prepare for the night and meet one of the girls who will join me in the show choir “surround”. She is a mother of two, and needs to do something else for a change. Like me, she works with trauma, and has a hectic life. We will drink some wine, sing and then join my other friends afterwards.
It has been a really good week, and I know tomorrow will be great, too. I feel so lucky, and struggle with not feeling bad about it. Like always, I wonder if I deserve it. I have so many fantastic people around me, the best job in the world, and the chance to do whatever I want. I have finally started taking singing and piano lessons, and can now dedicate myself to music like I always wanted. My heart reaches out to all the people out there who have so little in comparison. Why did I win the lottery by being born in one of the riches countries in the world, where we have every opportunity, while others are born into countries with war and poverty? I try to remember that I have suffered, too, and that I will help others for as long as I live. That relieves some of the guilt, but it`s still there.
To all my readers: I hope you have the same chance to lead a meaningful life as me. And if you aren`t quite there yet, that you can somehow change your circumstances and fight for the life you want.
17th of May is what we call Norway’s Birthday. It is really the Constitution Day, but we have always just called it Norway’s Birthday or the National Day. This day is celebrated as a Spring Festival. It is first and foremost a day for the children. We sing songs about the coming of Spring and the beautiful nature of our motherland Norway (or fatherland as we say in Norwegian).
Image source: pinterest. A girl wearing a traditional national dress. These dresses vary according to where you are from.
We dress up in our national dress and spend the day outdoors. The children participate in parades where they sing spring songs, and there are speeches and games.
I found this post on stumbleupon, and wanted to share it here. I have just read one of the books (antifragile), but heard about three of them before. The books look interesting, especially the first and last one. Hopefully I will have the chance to read them both this year!
Gilbert is a famous Harvard psychologist who has a knack for coming up with zany experiments that show just how flawed and biased the human mind is. In the book, he shows you time and again that as humans, we inaccurately judge, among other things, what made us happy in the past, what will make us happy in the future, and even what is making us happy right at this moment.
In fact, decades of Gilbert’s research on happiness all points to the same unsettling fact: happiness has little to do with what happens to us in our lives, and more to do with how we end up choosing to see things.
Gilbert’s theory is that we each have a “psychological immune system,” basically a bullshit generator where our minds explain away our past experiences, our future projections and our current situations in such a way that we always maintain a baseline level of mild happiness.1 And it’s when this “immune system” fails that we fall into prolonged depression and/or existential crises.
“We treat our future selves as though they were our children, spending most of the hours of most of our days constructing tomorrows that we hope will make them happy… But our temporal progeny are often thankless. We toil and sweat to give them just what we think they will like, and they quit their jobs, grow their hair, move to or from San Francisco, and wonder how we could ever have been stupid enough to think they’d like that. We fail to achieve the accolades and rewards that we consider crucial to their well-being, and they end up thanking God that things didn’t work out according to our shortsighted, misguided plan.”
On The Genealogy of Morals
by Friedrich Nietzsche
What It’s About:On The Genealogy of Morals is perhaps his shortest and most influential work, was starkest of all. In three essays totaling around 100 pages, he lays out the following:
In any population, you are going to have a group of people who are more talented/gifted/intelligent than average. Let’s call them The Strong. You are also going to have a group of people who are less talented/gifted/intelligent than average. Let’s call them The Weak.2
The Strong will naturally accrue the power in society for no other reason than they are more capable and talented than the others.
Because The Strong won their greater power and influence through outsmarting or outperforming others, they will come to adopt ethical beliefs that justify their position: that might makes right, that they are entitled to their privileged position, that they earned what is theirs. Nietzsche calls this “Master Morality.”
Because The Weak lost their power and influence by being outsmarted and outperformed, they will come to adopt ethical beliefs that justify their position: that people deserve aid and charity, that one should give away one’s possessions to the less fortunate, that you should live for others and not yourself. Nietzsche calls this “Slave Morality.”
Master/Slave Moralities have been in a kind of tension in every society for all of recorded history. Many political/social conflicts are side effects of the struggle between Master and Slave Moralities.
Nietzsche believed that the ideas of guilt, punishment and a “bad conscience” are all culturally constructed and used by The Weak to chip away at the dominance and power of The Strong. He also believed that Slave Morality is just as capable of corrupting and oppressing a society as Master Morality. He used Christianity as his primary example of this.
Nietzsche believed that Slave Morality stifled man’s greatest characteristics: creativity, innovation, ambition, and even happiness itself.
“Above all, there is no exception to this rule: that the idea of political superiority always resolves itself into the idea of psychological superiority.”
“Without cruelty, there is no festival.”
Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder
by Nassim Taleb
Some of the most important points in the book:
Often the most influential events in history are, by definition, the least anticipated. These are called “Black Swan” events.5
As humans, we are inherently biased against noticing both the amount of random events in our lives, and the impact these random events have on us.
That due to the exponential scaling of technology, Black Swan events are becoming more common and influential than ever before.
Therefore, we should build up systems (and ourselves) to be “antifragile,” that is, to construct our lives and our societies in such a way as to benefit from major unanticipated events.
“Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”
“The irony of the process of thought control: the more energy you put into trying to control your ideas and what you think about, the more your ideas end up controlling you.”
“Difficulty is what wakes up the genius.”
The True Believer by Eric Hoffer
What It’s About:The True Believer discusses why people give in to fanaticism, fundamentalism or extremist ideologies.
“The game of history is usually played by the best and the worst over the heads of the majority in the middle.”
“The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready is he to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.”
“Freedom aggravates at least as much as it alleviates frustration. Freedom of choice places the whole blame of failure on the shoulders of the individual. And as freedom encourages a multiplicity of attempts, it unavoidably multiplies failure.”
What It’s About: Freud was an academic sensation at the beginning of the 20th century. He invented psychoanalysis, brought the science of psychology to the mainstream, and was highly regarded in intellectual circles around Europe. Then World War I broke out, and destroyed everything. Freud was deeply moved by the devastation and fell into a deep depression and secluded himself for much of the 1920s. Civilization and Its Discontents was the result of this depression.
To Freud, Hitler and World War II just proved his point a few years later. And as an Austrian Jew, he ran for the hills. The hills being London, of course. He lived out the last years of his life in a city being bombed into oblivion.
“It is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built up upon a renunciation of instinct.”
“A love that does not discriminate seems to me to forfeit a part of its own value, by doing an injustice to its object.”
The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology
by Ray Kurzweil
What It’s About: In the beginning of The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil shows that the processing power of computers and technology has increased exponentially through history and is likely to continue doing so.
He then argues that because of this, in the year 2046 all of our brains are going to be digitally encrypted and uploaded to the cloud where we will all form a single, immortal consciousness that will control all computing power on the planet.
The technological possibilities presented in this book are truly mind-boggling. And we will undoubtedly see a significant percentage of them in our lifetime. Medical nanobots that live in the blood stream that we wireless upload vaccines to. Genetic programming for newborns so parents can choose not only the physical characteristics of their children but their talents as well. Uploading and downloading consciousness onto the internet, so that you could download somebody else’s life experiences as your own the same way you downloaded the last season of Breaking Bad.
As Neo once said:
“One cubic inch of nanotube circuitry, once fully developed, would be up to one hundred million times more powerful than the human brain.”
“Can the pace of technological progress continue to speed up indefinitely? Isn’t there a point at which humans are unable to think fast enough to keep up? For unenhanced humans, clearly so. But what would 1,000 scientists, each 1,000 times more intelligent than human scientists today, and each operating 1,000 times faster than contemporary humans (because the information processing in their primarily non-biological brains is faster) accomplish? One chronological year would be like a millennium for them. What would they come up with?”
Because man is the only animal capable of conceptualizing his own existence — thinking about his life, questioning it, imagining future possibilities — man is therefore also the only animal capable of conceptualizing his own non-existence, i.e., his own death.
In other words, humans were given the gift of being able to imagine the future and who we want to be, but the price we pay for this gift is the realization that we will one day die. A dog doesn’t realize she’s going to die. Neither does a fish. Or a roach. But we do.
This knowledge of our own inevitable death leads to a kind of ever-present “terror” that underlies everything we do. Becker argues that this terror inspires us all to take on what he calls a “hero project,” where we attempt to immortalize ourselves through our deeds and actions, to create something bigger than ourselves that will live beyond our own lives.
It’s when people’s hero projects contradict one another that we get conflict, violence, bigotry, and evil. It’s when hero projects fail that we fall into deep despair and depression because we’re once again confronted with the inevitability of our own death and meaninglessness of our lives.7
“Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level.”
“The irony of man’s condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.”
“What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous, if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms. This is the terror: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression and with all this yet to die. It seems like a hoax, which is why one type of cultural man rebels openly against the idea of God. What kind of deity would create such a complex and fancy worm food?”
watching you build an elaborate Lego set called “Life,” and you turning around and saying, “Stop laughing, this is important!”
Read This Book If…
…you plan on dying one day. …you think you take life a little bit too seriously sometimes and need to chill. …you want to read a convincing argument for why we should embrace our pain and our fear rather than avoid it.