21 Ekim 2017 Cumartesi

Philosophy of Everyday Things: A first take on minimalism

About half a year ago, I had written a post about why it might be a good idea to simplify a few daily things. It took some time until I got a minimalism rush and start to work on it, but here are some initial thoughts, followed by direct pragmatical tips in case you want to give it a shot too.

What can stay?

For my current goal it is which is essential for leading an healty life and functional items that I use for doing things I like. The second part is essential, because otherwise the whole act becomes getting rid of stuff for the sake of it. My main objective however is making physical and more importantly mental space for stuff that matters.

What it means means to me is: I need some clothing, something to sleep on, my guitars, laptop, camera and backpack stay, and some important documents (and kitchen stuff, but it is a given in a WG). But even those can be reduced (spoilers, they are)

What can not stay?

Basically everything else.

Books: I strongly prefer reading paper books over e-books, which comes with some environmental shame, which can be justified by the fact that books are awesome and paper is relatively ok compared to other waste we produce. But there is no need to keep books. (Compared to not reading paper books it is a huge improvement for very low cost) . I always think I will come back to that book but it rarely happens. Exchanging books is awesome. It is free, connects people and saves the earth! At this moment, the only book I am considering to keep long term is a single compilation of some Hesse stories and poems.
Memoria: If you do not remember it without attachment to some physical object, it was not that important. But, there are some memoria that is ok to keep. First kind is the short term stuff while you still feel like you are there where you got the memoria (though it is better not to acquire it at the first place), the second kind is the items which still do (and not only can) fulfill a practical purpose, like grandmas scarf. If a few items are pretty difficult, it is also ok to keep them for a while, until you get better at detachment :)
Extra clothes: Almost everyone I know, including myself, has more clothing than necessary.

If you have read so far, you deserve some pictures of my favourite "minimized" items to keep you from clicking away.

 I simply use hangers for all my clothing. It takes my less space than folding them and does not grow into a mess in my drawers over time.
This only works because I do not differentiate between items in the same category, which means, even if not all my t-shirts are the same, they would match everything else as good (or bad) as any other, so always take the top one. Same goes for almost all.
A classical example of freeing mind space by freeing physical space. 

My new table. I know it was not listed a necessity item but it is a dependency of laptop and documents (if you count university stuff to documents).Notice the lack of a fourth leg, true minimalism :) ! It is very small, which does not allow me start a new thing wihtout removing the formet task first. I also fold it away everytime I am done using it, not because it takes lots of room, but rather as a task changing ceremony, a mental pre/postpreation. A large table surface, drawers or the table simply being ready do sound practical, but I think they also produce lots of mental clutter. Focus!
Oh, yeah the chair is also gone.

Futon on tatami. Pros: Can be put away easily, actually quite comfy when you get used to it, detachment from the extravagant comfort of a full blown bed, tatami makes a good yoga mat.
Cons: First night is uncomfortable, maybe second a bit too.

There is a lot more to simplify, I am still working on it!

Why focus on physical objects: Starting of easy

Most of this post was about getting rid of physical items. I definetely do not think it is the main part of simplifying life, but it is the easiest part.
  • With every item going away one sees an objective proof of "success", which makes it much easier to stay commited.
  •  After getting rid of a physical item by selling/gifting or throwing away it is difficult to get it back, mostly difficult enough that it takes more than a moments impulse to actually do it, which takes much less when f.e. giving up an unwanted habit. Anyone tried quitting smoking? You know what I mean.
  • Most of the time it is easy to decide whether an item is a necessity. (protip: it mostly is not)
  • There are lots of stuff that bring very little to no use at all, getting rid of them basically comes for free. I think one should also pass this line and sacrifice some habit based comfort to take further steps, but at least this much is something everyone would benefit from.
  • Having friend who looks you in the eye and says you don't need that shit helps a lot. You have to be ruthless and it is easier to be ruthless on other peoples stuff.
And it makes good preparation for the mental cleaning afterwards.

A quick note on waste

Throwing stuff away just to buy more "minimal" alternatives is not much of a environmental friendly strategy. Selling second hand items (also read: making some money) , giving them away as gifts or repurposing them (also read:lots of DIY fun) however is! Inevitably, some stuff will have to land in the garbage or recyling bin, but it can be kept minimal.

4 Nisan 2017 Salı

Learning Esperanto

Saluton geamikoj!

(Esperanto traduko jam ne estas fina. Mi estas komencxento, bonvolu helpu min korekti miajn erarojn)

As of today I have been learning Esperanto for little less than 4 weeks, and so far it has been an experience worth sharing.

Hoidaux, mi lernas Esperanton ekde iomete malpli 4 semajnoj, kaj gxis nun estis sperto valoro por afisxi.

For those of you who haven't heard of Esperanto yet, it is a constructed (read made-up if you like) language that has been around for more than a century with 100.000 to 10.000.000 speakers wordwide according to different sources and was thought to be an international language that is easy to learn and fair to native speakers of various languages. There are lots of material and critism on the internet if you want to know more about Esperanto, but this post will only be about my initial personal experience and thoughts on this.

Por cu tiu, kiu ne konas Esperanton :) gxi estas planligvo, (elpensigi, se vi volas) kiu eksistas por pli ol unu jarcento, kun 100.000 gxis 10.000.000 parolantoj sur la tuta mondo laux diferencaj fontoj. Gxi pensigxis esti lingvo internacia kiu facile lernablas kaj justas por naskigxparolantaj de diversaj lingvoj. Estas multaj materialoj kaj kritikioj sur la reto pri Esperanto, sed cxi tiu skribajo estos nur pri mia unua propra valoro kaj pensoj pri tiu.

Why bother learning a made up language?

The first question I (and probably many other Esperanto speakers or Esperantist·oj in Esperanto) recieve is why you should spend your time learning a "useless" language. Well, firstly, it is not that much time and secondly there are reasons.

La unua demando al mi (versxajne al multaj aliaj Esperantistoj) estas kial oni devus pasigi sian tempon lernate "senutilan" lingvon. Unue, ne estas multa da tempo; due, kialoj existas.

My first motivation was just to learn a new language, because I think learning a language has benefits irrelevant to direct use of it.

Mia baza motivo estas lerni novan lingvon, cxar mi pensas lerni lingvon havas gajnojn malrilatajn je direkte uzi de la lingvo.

Every language represents a way of thinking. In Turkish we have a saying "One language, one person; two languages, two persons". I like to interpret this not only as you are able to contact more people when you speak more languages, but also as you become kind of multiple persons. There are actually studies that show multilinguals actually have different personalities when they speak different languages. Amazing, right? (Sory for not linking any, but a quick web search should bring you a lot). In my personal opinion which language you are speaking can even change your mood psychologicaly, and the time your learn the language/ first contact with people in the language has a major impact on it. More on how it was for me while learning Esperanto later.

Cxia lingvo reprezentas pensirejo. En la turkan oni devas "Unu lingvo, unu homo, du lingvoj, du

What makes Esperanto really interesting in that sense is its extreme logical structure and having borrowed different aspects from different languages. I feel learning Esperanto is giving me a way of thinking that I could not get by learning another language. Since I am still a beginner, this is yet to stand the test of time, but I am very convinced.

Another aspect of learning the language is learning about the cultures that are bound with the language. In case of Esperanto the amount of cultural material is less in comparision to most other languages, but there is still interesting meta. Being a constructed language that has proved to be functional, Esperanto allows one to compare the "random" evolution of a human language with a language that was planned at a time when we knew much more about what a language is supposed to be capable of. I think it is philosophically interesting.

Finally, I really enjoy the idea of having a common language for all. Even the name of the language, which was the pseudonym under which Zamenhof published the first version) means the one who hopes.

Does anybody speak it at all?

Oh yes. I was really surprised to sit on a table full of people speaking fluent (apart from me :) ) Esperanto couple of days ago. There is a pretty active commnunity around the language. Vikipedio is the 32nd largest wiki at the moment, (larger than Simple English and Greek) and there is a fair amount of original and translated literature, music etc.

You can even couchsurf in Esperanto!

Even tough one could argue that it is more useful to learn a language that is actually spoken in a country other than few micro-countries, I think it is rather an advantage that Esperanto speakers are everywhere on the world. By learning a single language you get to speak to a diverse community of speakers. (Since I am yet to meet many, I will not analyse the diversity of Esperantists at this point) Arguably English provides you with the same, and most Esperantists speak a bunch of other languages, but I really like the idea of having a language that was foreign to almost all. Interestingly, I do not even have that strange feeling when I am talking to Germans in Esperanto, even though the "default" language would be German for me in most cases.

Other than that, all the speakers I have met so far war genuinely nice and interesting people. After all they are all people who learned a made up language, how bad can they be?

Is it easy to learn?

Yes! The grammatic is 16 rules, words are constructed in very logical ways and the few remaning roots to learn are pretty easy if you already speak a European language. After my second week I went to the local club in Munich to see whether I can understand anything at all. Of couse you can not expect to be fluent in any language in 2 weeks, but I was already on a level which allowed me to have basic conversations and communicate on a basic level, often asking for words or asking my conversation partners to repeat slowly. I think this is critical because once you achieve this level, you can improve by watching videos on youtube, reading and chatting to others.

If you are interested, there are many ways to start learning, the most common ones being lernu.net and the course on Duolingo. Give it a shot, before you can decide whether you like it, you will already be speaking a bit!

26 Ocak 2017 Perşembe

Philosophy of Everyday Things: Why I decided to simplify my life

Apart from truly deep philosophical questions, there is a lot of simple stuff think about, that can  lead to actual changes in our lives, thus be tested. This is the first post on such, hopefully followed by others, including reports of practical experiments.

It is more about how we see "things", rather than "things"

    Imagine you are looking at a piece of art. Is there a message that you can formulate as a sentence. Assuming the artist really wanted to get this kind of a message across, why would not he just say it the way you are supposed to get it?
    An explanation could be that we enjoy this process of "packing" and "unpacking" the message, as cartoonist Erdil Yaşaroğlu puts in this awesome ted talk about humor. (Note for friends who do not speak Turkish, the subtitles seem to cut some of the awesome). 
    But is there always a conscious message? Do we unpack it the same way it is packed? In fact, everyone has a different way of interpreting  art and the conclusions differ. We could say there are some people who get it right and others are wrong. In a more open way, we can also say art is a collaboration between the artist and the observer. Inspecting an art-piece is an active process, and the subjective final outcome is rather a discussion between the artist and the observer.
    Same applies to everyday things and their observations. You can even say life is a work of art by the god or universe. The effects of every day events on our psyche are collaborations of the events and our interpretations.

There is joy in many things.

     As a special case of this idea, we could try looking for joy in daily things. I do not mean that we should be fooling ourselves into interpreting everything as absolute good, this could end up badly in long term. But we should learn to find joys we oversee.
   As a personal example: I did not like popular music (stuff you hear on the radio). The interpretation that I have chosen was that it is mostly not creative or qualitative. One option would be tricking myself to a superiority feeling.  ("I am better than people who listen to this"). The other option would be trying to feel the kind of joy that people have who like it. The second one is more mental work, and we are lazy creatures; but being able to enjoy more in life is a skill worth training.
   Of course, there is more than pop music. Why not learn to enjoy the daily commute? Or cooking? Or eating? Or even breathing?  Even the acts that we supposedly enjoy can often turn dull because we are not in the moment, so why not practice to fix that? 


   Being aware and in the moment all the time can be difficult, especially when there is too much going on. I feel overwhelmed by the endless stream of everyday things and events. There is more in my life than I have the mental space to really appreciate. My solution is, to get rid of things I do not need, as most of the objects I own or things I do, do not add any real value to my life.
In the following posts, I will try to look at things from that perspective in critical way, one at a time.