There’s seldom been so much talk about normality as in the past few weeks and months when everyday life has been completely turned upside down – practically from one day to the next – by the spreading of a novel virus called COVID 19. Is this the new normal?
Driving through a bank of thick fog is a hazardous enterprise. You can hardly see a thing and have very few points on which you can reliably orient yourself. This means that you have to drive slowly so you can brake in time if some vehicle suddenly emerges and crosses your path or some other obstacle looms up in your line of sight. Driving by sight is the only way you’re going to get out of such thick fog safely.
Wir Menschen neigen dazu, uns für die Herrscher auf diesem kleinen Planeten im großen Universum zu halten. Doch hin und wieder tauchte in unserer Geschichte ein mikroskopisch kleines Wesen auf, das uns daran erinnerte, dass dem nicht so ist. Genau das erleben wir in diesen Tagen und Wochen als Menschen auf der ganzen Welt. Eine Krise wie wir sie bisher nicht kannten. Und doch liegt in ihr, wie in allen Krisen, auch eine Chance.
Short-term thinking is pretty much the norm nowadays. Shareholders are much more interested in a company’s quarterly results than they are in its long-term sustainability strategy. Targets must be met as quickly as possible. Wishes must be satisfied at double quick time. Quick success, quick profits, everything as quick as possible. I call this the “Amazon Prime Principle”. Want it today, have it tomorrow. In the fast-paced life of the 21st century there’s little room for patience.
Once upon a time and not so very long ago, we used to sit down, take a sheet of paper, pick up a writing instrument and put words down on paper when we wanted to write a letter. Those of us born in the past twenty years though have grown up in the age of electronic media where the keyboard of the computer or smartphone replaces the pen and the monitor screen ousts paper. The annual National Handwriting Day which was recently celebrated on January 23 aims to remind us of the value and importance of such a form of human communication. But would its disappearance really be a loss?
Anima Mundi – The Soul of the World is the name of the newly designed Ethnological Museum in the Vatican Museums in Rome that Pope Francis recently inaugurated with its first exhibition on the Amazonas region.
“Sweet sleep! You come like pure good fortune, unasked for, most readily when not implored.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe).
Poets of all ages have sung the praise of sleep. Sleep puts us in a kind of limbo where without any agency of our consciousness, our minds process what we have experienced, order and react to it. Sleep is indispensable and precious. And yet for a long time I’ve had a feeling that in our modern culture sleep is not given the importance it deserves so that some people even consider it as wasted time. As though our lives only consisted of one single reality.
When I booked my trip to New York where I hadn’t been for quite a few years, I had no idea that I would be there on exactly the weekend the UN Climate Action Summit was taking place where Greta Thunberg delivered her impassioned angry speech. Yet I was thinking about the state of the Earth and the way we are living on it when I visited the exhibition on American Native Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And some of these thoughts I'd like to share with you today.
18 minutes – that’s all the time speakers have to present their ideas and thoughts at TED. The range of speakers includes scientists, artists, kids, people like ‘you and me’ and even the occasional former president of the United States. To be invited to speak you must have done, experienced, developed or discovered something that’s interesting and important for other people, and that they would never have heard about if it wasn’t for TED. Obviously, there's a preselection process but in principle no subject is out of bounds. And the talk should be engaging and innovative, motivating and entertaining. Ever since a friend of mine told me about TED some years ago, I never want to be without this fountain of positive thinking.
OUBEYs life took an abrupt and brutal ending 15 years ago on 2 August 2004. He was sitting unsuspectingly in his smart car by the side of the road when a 40 tonne truck came up behind and without breaking smashed into him at 90 km/h. OUBEY did not survive the impact.
The man with whom I’d spent 21 wonderful exciting years, with whom I’d shared so many thoughts and feelings, that man I was so close to and with whom I lived in such harmony was no longer there from one moment to the next. And his dream of exhibiting his pictures again, after 12 years of withdrawal and seclusion, looked irretrievably lost.
Was everything now over?
The Atelier des Lumières in Paris is housed in what used to be an old iron foundry. Since last year it has been used to present the works of world famous artists – in moving over-dimensional pictures projected on the 10 m high walls and the floor of the hall. It is currently featuring the work of an artist particularly close to my heart - Vincent van Gogh. When I saw some examples of what they were showing on the internet I was spellbound.