A Travellerspoint blog

6 months in Poland - disruption. disruption. disruption.

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Yesterday marked the passage of my first 6 months here in Poland. Ever since I arrived, I started having one recurring thought while riding the bus. Very often, I would look to the people around me or to the names of the bus stops and be struck by the paradoxal sensation of feeling completely alienated from this reality, feeling totally different from the people around me but at the same time being stunned by the fact that Warsaw was now my home and increasingly very familiar. As if I was somehow in between two dimensions, two realities. I was (and still am) the same self, yet my reality, my reference points completely shifted in a matter of weeks. It's like one day you are living a certain life and in the next you wake up, your life is completely different and yet, you still perceive everything as normal, as if that has always been your life, your reality. I dunno about other people, but to me it is a very fascinating feeling to have and it makes me wonder a lot. People often talk about reincarnation, about past lives and what they were or wish to be in different lives. Lately I have been thinking about the possibility of reincarnation within our own (and only, i'm sorry to say) physical existence.

But how can we do that?

I think the answer lies in two fundamental pillars: the notion of time (and how can we stretch it) as well as the notion of change, in the sense of a complete disruption of our reference points (what is usually described as leaving the comfort zone).

TIME

Ever since I turned 30 (http://1dream1000ways.travellerspoint.com/72/) that I became more and more aware of the importance of time. As a person that is interested in too many things and wants to absorb as much knowledge and experiences as possible from life, I realized that while one can't live and learn everything, one must lead a complete life, living it as fully and intensively as humanly possible. So I started trying to find ways to stretch my own notion of time, as it's obviously not possible to strech time itself. So gradually I found out that the more my days are occupied, the longer they seem. But here's the trick: it's not about being occupied only with tasks we don't like or being completely absorbed by things that don't motivate us. It's also not about only being occupied with leisurely tasks and activities. If we spend all the time just enjoying life, we tend to not appreciate those things so much after a while. On the other hand, if we spend all the time doing things only because we have to (work, groceries, cleaning, whatever....), we will tend to become more and more dissatisfied with our life.

The trick is to embrace all of that with passion, with a sentiment of purpose and commitment. Is to never give in to our tired body or let laziness rule our lives. How often we hear people complaining that they are so tired after work that they just want to lay in the couch? Or how people tend to sleep many more hours than actually needed, just because it's comfortable and cozy to be in bed? Or how often people cancel something just because they are slightly sick or not feeling so well, although it's nothing serious or life theatening? We must not let those external circumstances take control of our lives.

In 6 months here, I feel like I haven't stopped. I've been sick, I've been worried about my health, sometimes physically exhausted. But I haven't stopped doing things and I feel I have done a lot. I never searched for the most comfortable option in all my decisions. It might sound clinically insane, but there is so much beauty in enduring, in walking close to the edge of our own limits.

That's why I look back in my life and I don't feel it's passing too fast. I also don't feel it's passing slow. I feel like life is happening at its own natural pace and I'm embracing as much of it as I can, thus stretching my own notion of time.

DISRUPTING LIFE

I think that something is wrong when people look back in their lives and say it's passing too fast. If we look back and can't clearly separate different moments, if it's all mixed in one gigantic amalgam of undifferentiated moments, we're doing something wrong. I learned by my own experience that if we periodically disrupt something in our lives, it will help to stretch our notion of time. I prefer to use the word disrupt rather than change, because I like the drastic vibe the word implies. I think that's the key element, the necessity of a drastic alteration of some part of our life, if not everything at the same time.

But that's precisely the problem, I guess. In our day and age, we are induced (if not forced) by everything and everyone around us to search for comfort. It became an underlying element of existence. In our decadent and materialistic society, the search for comfort became the Holy Grail of everyone's life. Therefore, the value of comfort became very high and it's present in almost all of our decisions, making it very difficult for people to leave the so called "comfort zone", not to mention that the search for comfort itself is a source of great frustration for most people. If we combine that with another human weakness, the "fear of the unknown", we have the perfect conditions for people never leave the comfortable routines they create and they so mechanically and blindly abide.

But I believe that, however deranged it may sound, if we control that almost unbearable fear and deliberately disrupt our life, the outcome of that will be very rewarding in a spiritual way and will help us lead a happy and seemingly longer, more fulfilled life.

By disrupting life, I mean every things that produces a change in our "normal life". It can be as simple as choosing a different road on the way to work or ride a bike rather than going by bus. It can be also meeting different people rather than sitting on the same bar with the same people every weekend. Or it can be quiting your job and go travel the world. It's up to each one of us to decide and act according to our own reality. And there is so much magic in that.

When we disrupt life, we create landmarks, we turn normality upside down and that event becomes engraved in our memories. We create a before and an after, we stretch life. If there is not disruption, there is only continuity. And continuity is boring. It's safe, but boring.

I know all of this sounds quite obvious and easy. But is it really? :)

I guess that's all I have to say about my 6 months in Poland! :) I actually wanted to analyze the society and the upcoming challenges here, my own integration and perspectives about the city itself, but I got lost in my thoughts once again!

Here's to another 6 months!

Posted by ZackMeursault 05:36 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Here and now.

The morning outside couldn't be more grim. As I lean my head against the window, drops of rain hit it gently but persistently. One mere centimeter of glass separates me from them and gives me that comforting notion of safety and warmth. The bus travels steady, mile after mile, but somehow it feels that the plain fields of Poland outside are sliding in front of my sleepy eyes and I'm motionless, watching the world spin and wondering, always wondering.

They say we perceive Nature according to our state of mind. Mother Nature is always magnificent but the same view impacts us differently depending on our mood. I totally agree. Listening to Sun Kil Moon's "Salvador Sanchez" while typing and facing the gray skies above the timidly green landscape I couldn't feel more in touch with this scenario, different but so familiar. Afterall, I've been spending countless hours staring at the window inside cars, planes, buses or trains over the past decade. Often alone but never lonely.

My ipod is in shuffle, as always. It keeps surprising me and each song is a trip to some memory, some moment, some feeling or all of them combined. Now it took me far far away down memory lane with "Today" from the mighty Smashing Pumpkins. Too much to write about this song and this band but I'll just point out the irony in the lyrics opposed to the cheerful tone of the song. The mass of people don't realize it's a song about contemplating suicide while singing out loud "today is the greatest day I've ever known, can't wait for tomorrow, tomorrow's much too long". This reminds me of a night in Porto when I was in a Peter Hook (from Joy Division) concert circa 2009 or 2010 and everyone was singing in unison "Love will tear us apart" with a smile and their faces covered with ignorant happiness. At the time, I thought of Ian Curtis, the iconic leader of Joy Division who suicided in 1980, and how he was probably revolving in his grave, seeing people being complete unaware of the depth and emotional weight of his lyrics and music. I'm probably sounding pretentious but I swear I'm not. I just have the utmost respect for music and artists that genuinely create and express themselves, allowing us to enter their worlds. It's a gift for us, normal people, to have the chance to penetrate the mind of a genius and most people just don't take that chance, they just focus on the surface and don't dig deeper.

Some more songs played but I didn't noticed them until this one: "Yasmin the light" from Explosions in Sky. The song has no lyrics so I will also not write about it. If you are still reading this, go and listen to it, I'll let you discover it and perhaps you'll be transported to some realm of beauty. That's where my mind is right now, flying high with all the wonderfulness of this world.

"Change" from Blind Melon. Shannon Hoon. Another fallen charismatic soul in 1995. This simple song says a lot and everyone should listen to it and never forget the lyrics.

Okay, I have still like 5h to go so I can't continue sharing all the songs I'm listening. I don't want to bore people to death. :) I just noticed that I wanted to write about other stuff but one song completely shifted my line of thought towards another direction. I wrote and wrote but many paragraphs later I'm still at the starting point.

So where were we? Outside I see the same grey sky and endless fields. Nothing seemed to have changed but I'm closer. Closer to Berlin. Yes, Berlin again. My third home. Berlin is special, everyone knows that. But I like to think that Berlin is special just to me, a secret that must be whispered only into the ears of those who are ready to fully understand the magic of that city, beyond all the hype that it attracted in the past years.

I'll be in Berlin for only 24h. Will spend a total of 16h travelling from and to Warsaw. What for? To see A Place to Bury Strangers. Yes, I wrote about them when I arrived in Warsaw. Over the past 3 years they became like some sort of sonic drug to me and later today I'm gonna get my dose. The year is 2016 but I feel like I'm a teenager going to his first gig. It's so good to keep such feelings inside us while seeing years float by.

This is what music means to me. A constant search for those moments of perfection. I put no limits or boundaries in that endless quest. I never get tired nor I will ever get too old to pursue and reach the absolute majesty of a live concert. Music will exist without me but I cannot exist without music. (I know, kind of a cheesy cliché). :)

The day is gray but I couldn't be happier. I have been refraining myself from writing here about my last couple of months for several reasons. But I think the most important is that I don't want to sound like I'm bragging about my life or trying to convince others that all worked out in order to prove some kind of point.

Also, my limited literary skills don't allow me to adequately express the vast range of experiences and emotions that have invaded my being since I moved to Warsaw. I prefer instead to let them just happen and exist in me, without the need to share it with the wider world.

I feel complete. And I wish that for everyone on this planet of ours. A vertical approach to life, trying to limit our egos and selfishness. Embracing the others with nothing but pure intentions. A constant search for the things that make us sparkle. Never surrendering, never giving up. And last but not least, always remembering that we all die eventually and the key to a happy life is to focus on the little things, the little pleasures rather than in the big scheme of things.

Life is here, RIGHT NOW. Don't miss it. There is no second chance. (The obvious clichés continue).

The sun slowly starts to show up but I need to end this post with a reference to Pavement's "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain". This album is a masterpiece. A classic 90s sound. Songs like "Elevate me later", "Silence Kit" and "Gold Soundz" will certainly make you feel like jumping like a teenager in pure ecstasy and maybe remember those simpler times without smartphones in concerts where people would gather in front of a stage to be part of a unique and fleeting experience. I guess that back then people were aware of the urgency of the moment and lived it intensively. That's so gone nowadays and few people actually seem to notice it and abide by the unwritten rule that says that the only thing that is real is the present moment. An endless roller coaster of moments. Happening. Gone. Happening. Gone. Happening. Gone....

I'm gone for now as well. Love to all.

PS. The irony of this is that I'm writing these words on a smartphone. ;)

Posted by ZackMeursault 02:43 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Building ships and other things

visions from the East, my new harbour.

snow

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In late September 2015 I deliberately sank a ship called "My Life". That ship had been adrift for some months and it seemed too lost in the vastness of the "What do do? ocean". As the captain and sole passenger of that ship, I made the decision to drown it in the depths of memory, jump off to unknown waters and start swimming. I had no life boat nor life jacket, just a fierce resolve in swimming towards new lands and new opportunities. So I confidently swam with nothing in my mind besides one vision. A vision that kept me afloat, almost recklessly, almost blindly through the darkest storms of the mind.

A few weeks later, someone threw me a buoy from afar, from the East. A buoy called real friendship which towed me from deep, revolving waters towards an "island" where I could catch my breath for a moment. As I explored that island, I realized how beautiful it seemed to me and how much I wanted to stay there. It was very similar to the vision that was guiding me before, but I knew I couldn't stay there forever. There weren't enough supplies for me to stay there indefinetely so I knew I would have to go back to the vast ocean sooner or later and continue my journey trying to find a firm, steady shore. This time however, I wouldn't be swimming anymore, I started building another small ship called "New Life". For some weeks I worked hard on building it, while enjoying the beauty around me and experiencing the little pleasures that magnificent island had to offer. And just like that my boat was ready and I was sailing again. It felt so good to be again my own captain, the captain of "New Life". Feeling the breeze in my face, I pointed at the blue horizon and went straight to it, like a true explorer, a true dreamer.

I didn't sail for long though.

The very first days of 2016 brought, as if by some ethereal coincidence, the glorious winds that steered me towards firm land. Equally wild and beautiful as the island before, but filled with provisions and opportunities for me to stay here and discover a new world. I don't have to worry anymore. I will dock my ship for a while here and work on improving it. Day after day, I will make "New Life" a bigger, stronger ship. I have no illusions, it's hard to build a ship from scratch and I will have to work hard on it. Nonetheless, experience tells me that with great effort, comes great reward. Not necessarily material reward, I'm talking only about spiritual reward.

"New Life" will be a very different ship than "My Life". It's gonna be more pragmatic, more developed and stable. "My life" was young and vigorous, crusading the ocean as a free spirit, no strings attached to anything. "New life" will keep the same irrefutable, almost unbearable desire for living a poetic life, but it will try to do so in a more mature, compromised way thus avoiding more turbulent waters.

But if I shall ever feel lost again, I will not hesitate for one second in imploding "New Life". That's the only way to live the life you want. When nothing or no one can stop you from holding up to that shiny, sparkling light that guides you either during the highest heights of happiness and ecstasy or in the deepest depths of darkness, fear and confusion.

As for now, I will take as much time as I can to enjoy the moment and savour all the small, yet of gigantic meaning, gestures of kindness I have been lucky to experience over the past couple of months. There's nothing more humbling than to launch yourself towards the unknown and realize that some kind souls will hold you and prevent you from falling into the abyss. Over the past months I discovered (or rediscovered) the true meaning of family and friendship as well as unconditional love and selfless kindness.

I couldn't feel luckier. And that says it all.

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Posted by ZackMeursault 05:49 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Łazienki Królewskie - a new circle of peacefulness

the first 30 days in Warsaw

30 days into my new adventure, I already found a new circle of peacefulness, the Łazienki Królewskie, which is a huge, beautiful park filled with different palaces, a roman style theatre and several other buildings and statues right in the middle of Warsaw. It's where I have been running almost every morning.

(taken from the internet)

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For the past couple of years I got used to wake up early in the morning and go for a run. Just me and my music. Day in and day out, it became a sacred moment of my daily life, something I can't even imagine not doing anymore. In a time where it's more and more difficult for each one of us to spend time alone just with our thoughts and dig deep into our soul, these daily 30-45minutes of absolute introspection put me in touch with the divine and with the beautiful. It's the only part of the day where I am completely unreachable and far away from a cellphone, laptop or internet. It's just me and my old iPod. But that's the magic of it. That small Ipod and I, we carry an entire life of moments, feelings, dreams, whatever you want to think of. In the end of the day, music will always be the defining and unifying element in my life.

Every morning I run, I feel epic and think of a million things. I promise myself I will be more active. I will write more. I will read more. I will learn Polish. I will apply for a lot of different jobs. I will be this or that. I will use all my time more efficiently. While running, I feel fearless and invincible. Often, powered by the perfect combination of a song and the scenery around me, I run as fast as I can, restless and energetic, almost boundless and bursting in pure happiness. It's amazing how much of our physical capacity comes straight from some kind of energy generated in our mind. With me that energy is triggered by music and nature. On that note, I wonder if Emerson would agree with me (as if he would ever enter in an intellectual conversation with me, lol). Back he in early 19th century he laid the foundation of the transcendentalism movement with an essay called "Nature", where he says that Man is only truly in solitude when in contact with nature and away from all manifestations of society. According to him, reading or writting (or listening to music nowadays) are not solitary moments, even if nobody is with us. I think I humbly disagree with him on that, because I still feel like I touch the divine in my morning running sessions, although I'm running in a city park and listening to music. Music and art in general are created by humans but they are attempts to create and touch the divine. When successful, they are able to elevate our soul and mind. But maybe I should try absolute isolation to see if that's the real and only way to touch or feel the divine.

The question here is that as soon as I return home from running, I submerge in those same old daily habits, I connect again with the world around me and end up losing all that accumulated energy, all the motivation to lead a higher purposed life. At the same time I reconnect with the material world I disconnect from the divine. Most of days I don't do all the things I plan to do while running. There's is nothing wrong with that, it doesn't make me sad, but I wonder how my life would be if I could actually keep that inner energy and motivation with me all the time. Maybe I would be able to achieve greatness. Maybe one day I will.

I wonder if most people have these kind of moments, where they are truly alone with themselves and are able to examine their own soul. In this global world, where everything and everyone is one click away but where people feel more and more lonely, I wonder if most of us are able to find ways to truly disconnect and embrace the spirituality that elevates our existence. I actually wonder if people even have the time to think about that or, more importantly, if they are already too numb to even acknowledge they are being completely dominated by a materialistic world. I am part of that materialistic world, but I'm struggling to remain aware of that and fight it somehow. We, the ones who were born before the technology explosion, we might be the last examples of the "old" world. A world where was easier to isolate ourselves from society. For example, I believe that no teenager is able to spend an entire afternoon in his room just listening to music and out of contact from the world outside, like we did as teenagers. He'll always have at least a phone with him and will be always reachable and able to reach others. Therefore, he will never be able to connect on a deeper level with the music he's listening to, he or she won't understand it. How often some of the best musicians of all time were tortured and isolated souls in their youth and music was their escape, their way of expressing all that accumulated pain, a way to express themselves? If you remove the isolation, you remove the ability to achieve greatness, I believe.

Back to the first 30 days in Warsaw, it has been a great experiece as a whole. It's a completely different experience, comparing with my erasmus year in Budapest (2005) or my 3 months in Berlin (2009). I'm embracing things more maturely now. I feel calm and confident about building a future here. Since I decided to turn my life upside down in late September that I haven't yet found my "shore" but I'm working on making my stay here permanent, focused on the long run.

Still, I'm learning many lessons. We never stop evolving, we never stop growing. But I'll leave that for another time.

Posted by ZackMeursault 04:57 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Sonic chaos in Warsaw

Yesterday night I was in my first concert here in Warsaw from A Place to Bury Strangers. These guys are probably the loudest band I've ever seen and I think they are one of the most exciting bands of this century. It's truly a sonic experience to see them. Something similar to seeing My Bloody Valentine live a few years ago. This was my third time and I'm getting more and more addicted to the kind of inner peace I feel while being literally invaded by that wall of distortion, loud guitars and raw energy.

They really like to push the limits of sound and it gets really loud. It was really funny to see people covering their ears or simply leaving the crowd. You can't just go and see APTBS. You have to know what you are going for and bring earplugs. Otherwise you are going to suffer, suffer badly! I don't think most people can actually enjoy that kind of sound but when you do, the sound takes your to higher levels of perception. I think once I read an interview with Oliver Ackermann, the band's leader, where he was saying something about that. About how loudness makes him feel somehow in peace. Or something like that.

This time I managed to speak with him before the concert as he was hanging out in the bar. One of the things about small venues and non mainstream bands is that you get to have access to the artists and interact with them. He seems a very fascinating character, very down to earth. At some point he told me "I like when things go crazy" so if you see people are not moving, start pushing them"! LOL! I was actually surrounded by people enjoying the concert so there was a lot of energy coming back and forth from the stage. The band never says a word to the crowd, they just come, blast shit up and leave. I really had a great time and I look forward to see them again.

The concert took place in a nice bar/club called Klub Hydrozagadka which is located in Praga district here in Warsaw. When I told some people I was going there, they all kinda of scared me saying that that district was very violent and that I shouldn't be walking in there alone, that Warsaw can get dangerous and that Polish people like to fight when they get drunk. I admit that for one second I even considered not going. Afterall, I just arrived in the city a couple of days ago and the thought of being involved in some rough situation all by myself wasn't so pleasing . But I made some online research and discovered that things changed over the past years and that a lot of artists and alternative people moved there. I also thought that fear should never prevent me from doing anything and especially in this case, I would never let it prevent me to go and see a concert. As I kind of predicted, Praga district (or at least the part i was in) became now some kind of "hipsterville" and seems totally harmeless. But it's interesting to see (I read that too), that for most of people in Warsaw, crossing the Vistula river to Praga during the night is off limits. I actually immediately felt like those are the places I want to discover during my stay here. Or at least until the first time I will be beaten by some big and drunk polish dudes! :)

I guess that's it for now here on the eastern front. It's been sunny early in the mornings so I am taking the chance to go for a run and discover the city! The world out there is strange these days (or maybe it has been for a long time already) but I am feeling well and safe from all the darkness surrounding our pre-apocalyptic lives. Been reading some interesting stuff and I'm continuing with my path. I don't know where I'm going but I will go all the way.

Posted by ZackMeursault 03:40 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

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