Sunday, 20 September 2015

A moment in your life

As my wife and I finished watching "The Orange Girl" (an adaptation of Jostein Gaarder's novel Appelsinpiken) a few minutes ago I saw this right in front of us on our coffee table:

I decided to capture the moment. "Nothing lasts forever. The moment is everything" are two lines from the movie mentioned above. While I was writing these few lines everything changed - an infinite times.
The moment you see on the picture above is gone forever. But the picture proves that it was there - at least for me and at least as long as my memory will be able to (re)construct it. This moment has become a vivid part of my personal story. Like so many others before, it will fade and reappear. When I see the picture, or think of the movie, of my wife or of this sunday afternoon. Maybe I will tell a friend about it or maybe I'll recall it the next time I see a coffee table.

Our lives are full of moments - you know it as well as I do. All that keeps them together are ourselves,
the stories we are. We all seem to be a part of one great story - and we all are adding new lines to it every moment. The difficulty is to be author and main protagonist at the same time. Or putting it more precisely:
Many of us are authors and actors in many different plays which overlap at different parts of their plots
(another thought I might have borrowed from Gaarder but this time all credit goes to Sophie's World ).

No one of course can prove that such a point of view is true. For this, one would have to be able to seize the infinite or in different words: know all the stories told, in the making or yet about to be written. In the end, however, I don't think that it is important whether this metaphor is more or less adequate. What seems to be way more important is the insight you might gain from choosing such a perspective (if only for a while):
do you like your own story? Do you like the stories of others? Which parts do you want to play, for whom and when? Which changes do you desire - which ones you do not?

The transitoriness of every moment leaves you essentially with a choice you have with every breath you take - as Shakespear put it famously: "To be, or not to be, that is the question". We can not escape this question as long as we are alive and part of this world. But we are free to find new answers by choosing new approaches to the question itself. We are free to discover the different faces of life. And we are always free to find consolation in the thought that at the end of our personal story we have enriched the world by our sheer existence.

This is what I believe in and why I choose to be.
At least for the moment.


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Unexpected Virtue of Identity

It`s been a long time since my last post and I wonder if you out there still exist.
Today as I wake up for the second time on this, so far, marvellous day, the sun is shining through our huge window. I blink for a moment and decide to go out into the world (Hamburg it is nowadays - in case you wonder :)). Taking pictures of the nature around me, I get lost in the beauty of the moment. My wife had to leave way earlier in the morning and is now on her way through this amazing place around us we call "world". I read a book. I drink some tea. I see the headline on a german news page saying "No German Identity without Ausschwitz" - it`s the 70th commemoration day of its liberation. I contemplate and I wonder.

Enough italics.

If you look at this wonderful world outside you - even as a part of German society, culture, history you can`t deny its infinite beauty. You also can`t deny that Ausschwitz - and everything it stands for - is  part of this world as well. You don`t have to go back in history to see the cruelty of it: people fighting for existence, for dogmas, for power, for wealth - humiliating, hurting, torturing, killing each other. And you wonder how, how could one make this craziness stop? Then you reflect upon your own deeds, your own beeing and try to understand what it means to be a human being. You read smart books, with even smarter titles, you think, you have moments of clear insight, you feel elevated until the next experience which shatters everything you thought would be right. You get insecure, look for new insights, new paths to follow because you feel that this world is way to beautiful to be a place of hatred, cruelty and unnecessary suffering. And again you find your own experience proving you wrong, showing that ideals of beauty ad harmony are far away from the reality inside yourself. And how, you conclude, can there be a constant beautiful world outside for everyone if I can`t make it happen even for myself.

Then, suddenly, you see this guy smiling at you. You double-check it. It`s not Uncle Ben`s.  Usually he`s old, bold and not dark skinned. Usually he`s a monk. Sometimes he`s not. But always, always you find him saying: "Meditation is the key to eternal happiness". And naturally you`re like
"nice! How do I do it?"
"All there is, is following your breath and being aware"
"Ok, cool. And what do I do if I get bored?"
"Boredom is an illusion"
"Yeah, wait a second. I can tell when I am bored - what do you mean it`s an illusion?"
(Imagine supreme laughter of higher wisdom, followed by) "I ? What is this I ?"
"What do you mean what is this `I`?"
(More of the supreme laughter)

Let`s stop here. Without having to deal with the numerous variants of the following dia-, no wait mono-, no still not this one... ah got it: zerolog, you know where the promise of eternal happiness will depend upon:
Whether or not you are ready to give up your Identity. `Cause let`s be honest: the world would be a much better place without all the big EGOs running around trying to fight for their existence. You wouldn`t care for wealth because wealth is relative and only measurable in contrast to other peoples perception of it - to their EGOs. Or power, because the idea of power rests on certain EGOs having more influence on the existence of other EGOs. Or even dogmas - if there is no EGO that believes anything then there is no reason to fight over it with other EGOs. And if you`re really consequent then the fight for existence would also cease at last. There would be a couple of breaths, decay of the physical body and that`s it: a world of perfect peace and harmony.

I look out the window, see the sun slowly sinking into the hills and feel this tremendous moment of beauty. And this beauty can only be perceived by YOU. It`s a feeling. And without a limited being to feel it - there would be nothing. No sunlight falling into my eyes, no electric impulses running through my brain, no chemical processes creating a certain feeling which I call "beauty". Or simplier: the astonishing realization that you are alive.

There is of course an internal problem of Identity: it makes you feel the limitation of yourself in all the ways.
It is a constant mediator of feelings, caused by immediate needs of survival, perception, memories, projections, a constant sense of tension between what you were and will be. And as the day gets longer and the enthusiasm of the morning fades you wonder whether life itself is a reason good enough to live for.

As I am struggling to finish this post I know the answer for me, my current identity.
I know the answer of the smiling monk.
And I wonder what my future me will think of me writing these last words right now.
I smile.



Thursday, 29 May 2014

Morality, European Union and a Horseman in the Sky

"I eat meat because I don't see a point in consuming the morally impeccable vegetables", 

said one of my closest childhood friends to me a couple of weeks ago. It's quite a puzzling statement at the first sight - don't you think? Granted, for it to have any value as a "justification" one has to accept the premise  (or: implication) that the preservation  of "moral impeccability" itself should be taken as a moral compass for morally impeccable acts. Let me rephrase the implication, so that I myself could understand it: if you want to act in a "good" way you should try to avoid harming "good". Yippee! We've made a perfect 360°circle - and now triumphantly have every right to proclaim that absolutely everything can be that "good"... 

That, of course, is the whole point of the quotation above. My friend likes to come up with similar statements to show the complete relativity of so called "moral acts". His formal reasoning is impeccable in deed - but I still disagree. Why? I'll tell you in a minute :)

 43% of the EU population voted - ca. 7% against Europe  

First let me recall last weekend and the rather frustrating statement of Europe and its people: "We don't care about the EU!" - might be a slightly exaggerated version of it. However, taking into account the non-voters you'll find about 2/3 of the EU-population (at least those having a voice) saying "I don't care about" or "I don't like the EU". Is there a point in blaming anyone for beeing disappointed with the EU or not sharing the ideal of transnational politics? I don't think so. Because the only possible grounds for this would be moral ones - and as we've seen above absolute moral grounds don't exist, right ?...

a Horseman in the Sky

I wonder how many of you know this short story by Ambrose Bierce. I'd suggest you to read it on your own if you liked to - because writing a summary of a short story is like squeezing out the water of a watermelon.
For the sake of this post only one piece of information is important: a young soldier is faced with a decision to make - and surprise, surprise... he hesitates. He starts fighting with himself (his conscience?!) and in the end forces himself to decide.
This very small word is all you need to show that moral grounds are inevitably human. We all need somekind of moral compass to make decisions. Even my friend, who suggests that all there is serves only the need to survive couldn't disagree: because "not making any kind of decision" or "deciding arbitrarily" are , of course, a kind of decision. Still there is no logical objection possible to the subjectiveness of morality - right?
After all, whether "not caring about" or "not liking" the EU is morally "wrong" is merely a question of perspective.

Yet there are certain cases where things are not that easy. Think of concepts like "pain", "well-being" or the most fundamental one "life" - which in its essence is the avoidance of "pain" and the promotion of "well being". If you deny the existence of "life", of course, then there is no point in anything. But if you do let "life" into your life - well, there you go: the absolute moral compass for everybody.

Going back to where we started, you still could try to justify a general "preference of meat over vegetables" on absolute moral grounds - but this creates a completely different basis opening the door for concepts like compassion, unity and love.   

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

'Kiseki' // 'I Wish' (2011)

Kiseki // I Wish (2011, Japan)
Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda
Screenplay: Hirokazu Koreeda
Aithne's rating: 8,5/10
Aniel's rating: 8,5/10

Aniel: What did we watch?

Aithne: We watched a very nice movie called... I Wish in English , but it's originally Japanese and it's called Kiseki. It was movie by Hirokazu Koreeda, who's slowly becoming my... He's definitely already one of my favourite directors and he's, I think, slowly becoming my absolutely favourite one.

Aniel: I have to agree that for Japanese directors he's definitely in my top two. The other one being Kurosawa.

Aithne: Oh, I can't say too much about Kurosawa, I've seen only one movie by him... But as for Koreeda, I really love it in his movies that... The way he portrays Japan in there. We've both been to Japan and... Usually when you watch these movies where the action takes place in Japan it's like... As for Japanese movies, I think we've seen mostly older ones - and Japan changed a lot during past 40 years or so, so it's like a completely different country, completely different feeling when you watch it. As for the present movies... How to call it? It just feels different. And if it's a person from outside Japan making the movie then, of course, it has to be Tokyo, it has to be the big crossroads in Shibuya and this whole very stereotypical image. But what Koreeda is portraying is really the Japan I remember. Even if it takes place in a completely different city, it still feels like if it was Kyoto.

Aniel: So we can already tell something about the setting and the story from it. It's placed in present times...

Aithne:'s not Tokyo...

Aniel: ...yeah, it alternates between Kagoshima and Fukuoka, I guess...

Aithne: ... I guess yes. So it's in Kyushu, not the main island of Japan but a bit more southern one. And they have a volcano in there, Sakura-jima.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Courgette-carpaccio with chickpeas-salsa

The name sounds pretty fancy, but actually it's just a kind of nice salad with chickpeas and a pair of vegetables. It's supposed to be a side dish for 4 people or a light dinner for 2 people. For the two of us it was completely sating, so if you also don't eat too much, you can definitely count it as a fully normal dinner.

The original recipe comes from my (probably) favourite cooking book from those few I own: German edition of Anjum's Indian Vegetarian Feast. Even though this dish is not necessarily so Indian. We made some small alterations, like using only green courgettes instead of green and yellow (I didn't even know yellow ones exist...) and replacing pistachios with pine kernels (which we happened to have in the cupboard). I guess our dish tasted completely different than it was supposed to, but it was nice anyway. Still, I'm a big pistachio-ice-cream lover, so I definitely want to try to make the pistachio-sauce as well.

The courgettes are soft and warm, the chickpeas are crunchy, the tomatoes and feta add some lovely freshness. And it's wonderfully simple. Just take a look:


4 big courgettes
a bit of olive oil
a dose (400g) of chickpeas (if you're - just like me - a DIY-freak and don't want to buy pre-made chickpeas, you have to start thinking about you dinner on the day before. Take 200g of chickpeas, put it in a bowl, add lots of water (like, really LOTS. You can't really take too much...) and leave it overnight. It should get at least twice as big as it was. Ready to use!)
1 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of ground cumin, roasted
1 small tomato, cut into small cubes
1 small (peeled) red onion, cut into small pieces
a bit of salt
30g of coriander leaves
75-100g of feta, cut or broken into small pieces


1 tablespoon of red or white wine vinegar
1 small clove of garlic, peeled
15g of pine kernels (or pistachios, if you stick to the original recipe)
2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 teaspoon of coarse ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of sugar


  1. Cut courgettes into thin slices (not thicker than 1/2 cm). Brush them with a bit of oil and put as many as you can on a frying pan. Fry them for approx. 3 minutes, until you can see brownish stripes on the bottom of the slices. Turn them around and fry the other side. Put the slices on a plate and fry the next portion.
  2. Mix chickpeas, lemon juice, roasted cumin, tomato cubes and onion pieces. Add some salt, pepper and almost all of the coriander leaves (the rest is just for decoration).
  3. Blend all the ingredients for dressing with 2 tablespoons of water.
  4. Put the courgette slices onto a plate (or two), add the dressing and the chickpeas mix. Sprinkle the rest of coriander and feta over the salad.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Ode(ssa) to Peace!

"Joy, beautiful sparkle of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter, fire-drunk,
Heavenly one, your shrine.
Your magics bind again
What custom's sword has partef.
Beggars become princes' brothers.
Where your tender wing lingers."

Sometimes I wonder whether poetry and politics have more in common than the first to letters. 
Poetry, to me, is the art of approaching the unexpressible. It can be the purest way of verbalizing
ideas, feelings, hopes. It can bridge the abyss between minds, hearts, cultures, nations. 
It also can be empty words arranged in a fancy way. 
Politics ends up beeing the latter way too often.
The problem is that empty poetry doesn't do much harm, whereas empty politics does.  
I don't want to write political posts - at least not in this overt, blunt way. 
I would like my posts to be an inspiration for the readers - not rhetoric as usual.
So how come I am doing this anyway?
Because I hope...
for the people of Odessa - a city with over 100 different ethnicities...
 that they can live in Peace as they did before...
for Ukraine  the 2nd largest country in Europe...
 that it can proceed onto the path of Freedom...
for Europe, Russia and the whole World...
 that "beggars become princes' brothers"!

I believe that small acts, like this post, can contribute to broader awareness,
higher sensitivity, and hopefully to a better tomorrow.
That's why I ask you to dedicate 5 minutes of your time to take a look at this:

 Care & Share!
"Escape the tyrants’ chains,
Generosity also to the villain,
Hope upon the deathbeds,
Mercy from the high court!
The dead, too, shall live!
Brothers, drink and chime in,
All sinners shall be forgiven,
And hell shall be no more."- Friedrich Schiller, Ode to Joy 1785

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

'Be With Me' (2005)

Be With Me (2005, Singapore)
Directed by: Eric Khoo
Screenplay: Eric Khoo, Kim Hoh Wong, Theresa Poh Lin Chan (inspiration)
Aithne's rating: 7/10
Aniel's rating: 7,5/10

Be With Me is a calm, meditative and almost completely silent movie. Its main topic - which you can easily get even without words - is simple: heart-breaking solitude and longing for love. We'd like to share our thoughts on the movie with you. It's not really a review, rather some more or less general impressions... Or just a simple talk. Hope you enjoy reading it.

Aithne: Ok, so... we're trying to make a voice review of a movie. For the first time. Sooo... We've seen this Singaporean movie called Be With Me and... well... Let's forget this thing is in there and just talk <laughter>. What do you think?

Aniel Bedouin: It's a very tragic movie, for sure. Very atmospheric in this way that, well, it was very minimalistic, right? And...

Aithne: Um. Definitely.

Aniel: ...I think it was supposed to be minimalistic precisely to show, kind of, maybe a bit how the woman felt, the blind one. There was one part in the movie when there was absolutely no sound... When she was typing...

Aithne: hospital, right? Oh, when she was typing as well, but I thought of the scene in hospital...

Aniel: Yeah, those were the memories I guess. Right?

Aithne: I think so... Well, I thought... This might be, of course, but I thought of it in a broader sense. You know, in general, just to show that these people are lonely and it's more or less how you feel then...

Aniel: Everything slows down, time passes by...

Aithne: I rather meant that you spend your days not really talking to anyone, you're completely closed in your world... But this was really interesting, it was something new; this movie was almost completely silent. And I really wish we had English subtitles for the Chinese parts <laughter>, between the father and the son. I know this is not a big thing, probably it wasn't anything that important, but...

Aniel: I'm not even sure whether it was not supposed to be this way. There was this small passage where the guy was starting to write a letter...

Aithne: Yeah, then there were subtitles.

Aniel: So I think maybe it was just supposed to be like this.

Aithne: I'm not sure... I wish I knew what they were saying anyway.