Math Formula

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What is Your Mant(r)a?

No, this is not about the famous German car from the 80s.
Also, this is not about the "flying" fishes.

(If you have a proper "oh no", "fucking bad joke" or whatever picture of gif at hand, the stage is yours. I didn't find a suitable one.)

No, this is about mantras, which according to the Oxford Dictionaries is: 

(originally in Hinduism and Buddhism) a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation:a mantra is given to a trainee meditator when his teacher initiates him

a Vedic hymn:her high, sweet voice began chanting the mantra of life
a statement or slogan repeated frequently:the environmental mantra that energy has for too long been too cheap

late 18th century: Sanskrit, literally 'instrument of thought', from man 'think'

I also don't want to talk about Hinduism, Buddhism or meditation. What I want to focus on is the literal translation, "instrument of thought". An instrument using which you keep your mind in good shape. Something you repeat to yourself, over and over, maybe even in a truistic way (or, as we guys with thick glasses like to call it, a tautology, a statement that is always true just by being true).

Since my very childhood, I remember having come across several sayings by the grown-up world (sorry for the quite literal translations from German; if you are aware of a similar phrase used in native English, please leave a comment):
  • Nothing causes nothing ("von nix kummt nix"). I understand that this should encourage you learn more, work harder, live a busy life altogether ...
  • Until you marry, it will be fine again ("bis du heiratest is' wieder gut"). Said to children when they are a little bit hurt, or, ironically, when they are full of grief because of being left by their first sweet heart
  • And, finally, my probably most hated one: Those who can go out can also work ("wer fortgehen kann kann auch arbeiten"). Something you would typically hear from your uber-orderly colleague at work about your hangover. Big BS!

Lucky me, I've turned old enough to question those sayings. My current point of view is that even though there might be a piece of truth in some of them, I would say that they show a heavy gravitation towards huge pieces of shit.

Admittedly, this might appear quite bold statement, since that is what most of us have been told since years. Most likely even so by people we know for quite a while already and whose opinion we typically highly value.
For some people these mantras might even play an important role in their daily lives. Thus, I will now not start arguing about my opinion. Just be invited to question those sayings that you might have taken for granted since ... well, ever since.

Just to be clear, the above sayings might provide some useful guidance through daily life. However, from my point of view most of them are too much focused on normalizing towards a proper, daily-from-9-to-5-working-nice-wife-nice-house-nice-children life and consequently lack universality.

So, no mant(r)as at all?
No, that is not to say that I consider mantras and sayings a dull thing in general. On the contrary, I think it is very useful if you have something to hold on. Something to come back whenever in doubt. For me, these are:
  • You always make the right decision
  • Everybody looks for individual happiness
  • It's gonna be ok
Take the time, and read the above again. Yes, you always make the right decision! If you feel like doing so, read it once again and enjoy. Isn't that incredible freeing? Free yourself from the burden of questioning yourself all over, and tell yourself that you did right!

Of course, you might do and decide differently if you would face that same question now again, but that is great! It only shows that you learned something and grew, and actually, the opposite would be sad.
Whatever it is, with regard to everything that you knew when facing that question, and everything you could possible know, and all your values at that point in time - you did make the right decision.

While that first mantra is rather egoistic and oriented on self-esteem and self-confidence, the second is about dealing with others.
Whenever I'm dealing with somebody who I cannot quite cope with, or when I cannot understand others' decisions and actions, I tell myself that everybody looks for individual happiness. Naturally, people have different needs and desires, but hold on for a second, and think about people surrounding you.

Whatever they might be looking for, in the end it is happiness. Keep that in mind the next time you are facing a tricky situation, and feel the difference. I promise you won't regret it.

Third, I'm quite convinced that in the end everything's gonna be ok. Whatever it is, it helps me to face it with a fundamentally optimistic attitude. Of course, there might be challenging days and phases in life where this is hard to imagine, and things might not always run as expected, but this way or the other, it will be ok.

P.S.: Credit for the first two mantras goes to a former professor at university, for the most useful thing I learned there. The third I cannot quite track back any more, but it always remembers me about Bob Marley's Every little thing's gonna be alright.
P.P.S.: I decided on a posting schedule. Expect posts here every Wednesday (starting next week, not tomorrow). I'm writing this here, because once I told the whole world about my plan, I know I'm much more committed and there is no way back ... and I'm sure this is the right decision!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Paricutin, Lucha Libre and Diving with the Biggest Machos of the Sea of Cortez -– News from Mexico pt. II

As announced in my last post, in the next one there are some pictures from my Mexico trip to be expected, et voila – here they are:
Above you see a typical Mexican "restaurant" in Mexico City, being characterized by two mandatory features: First, there are chairs made of plastic (the material constraint is not that strict for the tables, though).
Second, you are served your Coca Cola either in the can directly, or in a cup of plastic. (Side note: It is not recommendable to order “una cola por favor” – kola means ass, as we might have anticipated by the strange looks we were given as answers immediately and the explicit explanation after a couple of days...)
However, that is not to say I do not value Mexican kitchen – the opposite is true. 
Another hint, though: Don't think that just because the green sauce next to the apparently freaking hot red one looks so innocent that it is that friendly – again, the opposite is true. It is quite often even worse than the apparently freaking hot red one!

Admittedly, when I had written the first post in Mexico, I had intended to write another post within the next days or at latest within a week. However, I started enjoying being disconnected from the web, and Mexico is really amazingly inviting to just "follow the flow", which was just what I did in the end.

Thus, I’m now "at home" (huh, I find myself surprised of calling Bosnia "home") again, and reflecting in hindsight already. So, even though the impressions are now not that fresh any more, I guess that's out weight by them being summed up to the core now.

In short, my personal highlights of these overall amazing 26 days were:
  • The friendliness and openness of the people
  • Mexico's rich (and extremely bloody) history and culture
  • The astonishing view from the top of the former volcano Paricutin
  • Lucha Libre, the Mexican version of wrestling
  • Surfing the pacific ocean, resulting in the worst sunburn I've ever had
  • Diving with sea lions and man-sized turtles in a hulk
  • 26 days of tacos (with chilli, of course)

When my travel mate Tom came home from his first trip to Mexico two years ago, I had difficulties believing him the nice stories about the friendly people in Mexico. However, already the arrival on the airport proved me wrong – security personal friendly and with a smile showing you the way, without the obligatory grimace you are even expecting from most officials in European countries. 
I often thought of the people approaching you as an obvious foreigner all over in poorer countries as kind of "welfare tax". Naturally, being wealthier simply attracts several others willing to sell you drinks, drugs, accommodation or their sister. Mexico is the extremely positive prove that being friendly towards foreigners without expecting anything in exchange is indeed possible!

What amazed me as well (I cannot help but repeating the word "amazing" all over, but it is the best single word describing my impressions) was Mexico's rich history and cultureFrida Kahlo's husband Diego Rivera attempted to sum it up in one very impressive wall-painting:

Since there might be better sources of Mexican history than my impressions, which were probably just scratching on the surface, I will save you them now. Instead, I'll provide you with one quite controversial question, which was the subject of several interesting discussions we had during our trip. 
It is widely considered as a historical fact that the domination of the Aztecs was quite cruel. Demanding blood tax from the folks around, sacrificing some 20.000 people when the Templo Mayor was inaugurated, throwing people into wells in order to satisfy the god of water when rain was awaited, to name just a few examples. Does this cruelty justify the violent liberation by the Spain?
Does your answer change when you keep in mind that there is strong evidence that the major incentive of the Spain was not quite freeing the other folks around, but rather the huge amounts of gold they hoped to find in the surrounding valleys?

As a piece of irony, let me add that Moctezuma, the ruler of the Aztecs at that time, initially welcomed Hernan Cortez with open arms, assuming that he is the reincarnation of their god Quetzalcoatl.

The next amazing thing: Surfing! Let me warn you that you might consider also putting some sun cream onto your hollow of the knee. Otherwise, you might by unable to walk properly for the next couple of days, as I was.
Contrary to what I was expecting from promising clips on the web, it is actually not much about standing on the board at the beginning. Most of the time, it rather looks like that:
 ... paddling out against the waves, quite exhausting if you do it all day long.

Next you do that, the other half of the day:

No, I'm not the cool dude with the Mexican girl, but the one waiting for a nice wave, getting burned by the sun, just to end up like that:
For relaxing, we made a day-trip to the island EspĂ­ritu Santo close to La Paz, both for snorkeling and diving.We saw sea lions, dolphins, turtles ... amazing underwater landscape! Regarding sea lions: yes, my first thought was that they only live down under at the Antarctica as well. Regarding dolphins: "Gay sharks" ((C) Reese)!
Interesting, how nice a life a proper male sea lion has: They typically get 4 to 9 females - even bigger machos than the notoriously quite uber-self-confident Mexicans.
Well, the lucky ones at least. Since the ratio between males and females is roughly one, there is no need for a PhD in math to see that there must be several unlucky ones either. 
Apparently, these end up on a dedicated "losers island".
Dolphins, well, I cannot judge to which extend our arrogant assessment of them being the "second most intelligent" species on this planet is true, but it is definitely true that they are playful, cheerful mates obviously willing to respond to your actions and those of the ship. 

Also, I cannot stop thinking back to the funny evening I spent in the Arena Coliseo in Guadalajara watching lucha libre. Great and cheap entertainment for the crowds. As somebody called it, “a social phenomenon”, which I think it really is. Watch yourself, even though I'm quite certain it's hard to catch the incredible atmosphere:

There is much and more to be said about this country and my experiences, but I will leave it like that for the moment. 
What I want to mention still, though, is another thing that I enjoy during travelling in general, and that is being disconnected from my daily routine, and therefore having time to think about other topics, and ideally also some companions around to exchange thoughts on that. 

Among these were:
  • The Angel de la Independencia, symbol of the (naturally, quite bloody) revolution and freedom of Mexico, with one statue in each of its four corners: One for war, being opposed by one for peace. And another couple, one for law, being opposed by – justice. I'd love to have some thoughts on that from the jurists and sociologists among you!
  • Assuming you consider tolerance an important habit, what should be your attitude toward the intolerance of others? Or, put in another way: Do which extend does forbidding and even taking actions, including violence, against non-democratic movements delimit democratic societies?
If you feel like doing so, you are more than welcome to share your thoughts here.
Finally, some other random pictures:
Children being kept on a leash in Parque the Chapultepec.

Also Parque de Chaputepec, bear that bored of tourists that he simply started sucking his dick.

View to the remaining parts of the village San Juan Parangaricutiro from top of Paricutin.

 Our little friend in the palm-leaf toilet in the Pescadero Surf Camp.

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