The Closure of the “Eternal” City

Roma eterna. The eternal Rome. So much history, so much life, so much death. Whoever says, New York is the City that never sleeps, has clearly not been to Rome… or simply (and sadly) narrows the meaning of sleeping.

Six months. Six months did I live and study Italian in Rome. Six months did I roam its museums, its parks, streets, markets, and churches (more than 900 are there). Listened to the chatter (il chiacchiericcio) of its students, shop owners, bus passengers, and tourists. A wonderfully unique time, without a doubt. Yet a tense time as well. Increasingly the pressure in my mind and on my heart “to make the most of it”. Considering Rome’s historical, ecclesiastical, political and, last but surely not least, artistic and cultural importance, my relaxed natural curiosity turned quickly into a sheer panting after the city’s glories, the city’s treasures, the city’s character. “Don’t miss a thing! Now you have the chance to see R.O.M.E!” No day was long enough to see enough. There was so much to discover, to learn, to admire, to reflect on, to soak in. And after a short while a subtle feeling of guilt became part of the package.

The nostalgia that came over me whenever I thought back on that time surpassed each “typical” nostalgia that people normally have: nostalgia back to the days where we were younger, or healthier, more free, more spontaneous, or simply in a different country. But this nostalgia was more. A Life-nostalgia. Having become a parable for life in general, these six months in Rome opened up thought perspectives and questions on all areas of life, mostly not offering an accompanying answer. These six months happened Continue reading

Got Wax?

Knabenstatue

When one went to an ancient market place (e.g. Phoenician, Roman, Greek) with the intention to buy little statuettes from one’s favorite god/half-god/idol (in basically old-time merchandise/memorabilia shops), close attention was necessary. Vendors would try to repair cheap and slightly broken statuettes by smearing wax at the chipped spots in order to camouflage the flaw. Experienced buyers would grate around a bit with their fingers to see whether wax was used – and whether they should look for a different statuette, or even a different vendor. Statuettes without wax (Lat. sine [without] // Lat. cera [wax]) would be a sign for an honest, sincere, vendor and a good product: “No wax needed on this one!” (At least that’s how one disputed folk version describes the history of the word sincere [Lat. sincerus: clean, sound, pure]. Even if that’s not how the term developed, the picture it offers still fits the meaning it carries. Some other explanations are here.)

Sincerity can be defined as a virtue or quality of being and acting without deceit, pretense, or hypocrisy. Many of us know it mostly from a conventionalized formula for ending letters:

 

           Sincerely,

           J. Sebastian B.

 

Everybody knows that insincerity in people can take many forms and shades: from the simple lying-out-of-fear-person up to the highly manipulative man or woman which are a pain to live with. It’s no secret that pleasantly (!) sincere people are quite rare. Nor is it a secret that sincere and transparent people are great business partners. There is also the opinion that too transparent people seem to lack humor and are less fun. So, several aspects of (in)sincerity are more or less common knowledge. At this point of the day (right before brushing my teeth and [re]assessing my opinion on God, man, life, and chocolate) I only wonder about two things:

1) How would it feel like if everyone (incl. me) would be truly sincere at all times? (Is it worth imagining? And I am not asking whether it’s possible now or at some point in the future. I wonder how it would feel like…)

2) When I google images with the search term “sincerity”, why do only two things seem to come up: corny memes with “Let me inspire you”-proverbs and… wedding dresses?

Ok, still secrets beyond secrets… *sarcasm off*

 

Sincerely,

me

Learning anew – a new Language

Alfred Eisenstaedt - Left Bank, Paris, 1964.

Last week I decided to intensely study a new language for the next months … to get a good start with it this summer. And since I’ve made this conscious decision, my life seems different. I’ve been there before. It always seems and feels different when I set out to learn a new tongue. Languages are my passion (well, and my profession). As most other people, I think in language (who would have thought? lol). And I think best when I read, write and talk. Mere thinking without expression is half thinking at best. At least for me.

Intentionally diving into a new language is a bit like Continue reading

“Liber liber?” – On the Freedom of Books

book nook

 

Today, April 23, 2014, is the UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day. Occasion enough to write a little piece about an obviousness that we, that I, sometimes forget: Books are not free.

Liber liber non est. (The book is not free. Isn’t Latin beautiful?!) A play of words – and a play of double meaning. No, books are not free. Ultimately they can’t. Too many people are involved in the process of their making. Too many people’s water bills, school tuition, and grocery expenses depend on getting something back for the time they – the writers, editors, publishers, printers, and deliverers – put into producing books. No, books cannot Continue reading

Books of my Life… Some. So far.

Reading...

Tomorrow is the UNESCO Book and Copyright Day 2014. Here is a small list of selected books that have influenced me a lot. Enjoy!

TOP THREE BOOKS:

1) The Bible. (Initiated and informs my worldview. Is essentially different than any other book I ever read in my life. Calls me to thank, obey, and worship my Creator; gives energy beyond measure; encourages me to live intentionally and to love unconditionally. Not there yet, but I started my journey…)

2) My Passport. (Only 32 pages. One protagonist. Several supporting/signing characters. Boring plot. Yet the first document I would save if my house catches fire. – Reminds me that I am, after all, not a cosmopolite, but a German. By nationality. Sometimes also by heart; not sure yet.)

3) Steps to Christ by Ellen G. White (The best book – besides the Bible – to get to know Jesus Christ. It’s short, concise, and practical as well as deep. Great for everyone who wants to know for him-/herself what Bible-believing Christians believe about their God.)

 

TOP THREE AUTHORS:

- Ellen G. White (The most translated American author of either gender, and most translated female writer in history. Excellent insights on spirituality, Bible, education, health, critical thinking, Christian history, personal devotion, etc. Timeless, yet very timely.)

- Stefan Zweig (Sternstunden der Menschheit/Decisive Moments in History. Schachnovelle/The Royal Game and many more. Excellent. For me the Johann Sebastian Bach of German-speaking literature.) Continue reading

Wanderlust, or: The Luggage of Words

Milano, Stazione Centrale

It is a human characteristic that we often want to be where we currently are not. Exploring new places, meeting new people, eating unknown food, learning new words (or even whole languages). It has to do with beginnings. And there is something amazing about beginnings: this mixture of curiosity, adventure, learning, sensing, and broadening of one’s own horizon. Traveling holds many beginnings. So, no wonder that – at least for many people – it is a very exciting endeavor.

The English language has several expressions for this longing to travel: itchy feet, Continue reading

Pareto and Me: How to Trick My Writer’s Block

Typewriter

It dawned on me. Late. But not too late. And for sure it’s not the least of things I need to know for now and my future: “Cooperate with the Pareto Principle!”

You never heard of it? Nevermind. Here it is. The Pareto Principle is named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) who observed that 20% of the pea pods in his garden yielded 80% of the peas. Well, more excitingly – and more economy-related - he also observed that 80% of the land in Italy belonged to 20% of the population. Needless to say that this principle holds true in many other fields of science and life and has since been widely confirmed, adopted, and applied to various areas of life. One of them is time management. Or have you never experienced that most of the furniture refurbishing, Pizza-making, scrapbook-assembling, etc. is done in a comparatively small amount of time, whereas the final amount of work seems to eat up most of the time? Here we go. Welcome to Pareto-World! :) Continue reading