Feb 022015
 

There are two forms of freedom, “freedom from” and “freedom to“.

Why can't I have the freedom to breathe underwater (without gear)?!?

Why can’t I have the freedom to breathe underwater (without gear)?!?

The first contains freedom from tyranny, freedom from taxes, freedom from fear, freedom from nagging parents-in-law.

The second is freedom to vote, freedom to say what you dammed-well please, freedom to go where you want.

In western society we have a lot of these freedoms embedded in law (though not freedom from taxes unfortunately). Even better, these laws are actually upheld quite well too!

Still, I find myself struggling for freedom. And I know I’m not alone in this.

The freedom I struggle for is “freedom to do what I want” (which is perhaps the most general freedom of all). To live my life as I see fit, to do exactly what makes me happiest.

As almost all of the things I would want to do wouldn’t hurt a fly, the law hardly stands in my way. Still, the are three things opposing me.

First is “the system”. Food and a roof over my head aren’t free, so I’m more or less required to spend a fair amount of time as a bondsman to the thing they call “work”. There are ways around this, but they all require sacrifices of freedom in some other way. “Freedom from taxes” would certainly help here…

Second is “society”. There are strong ideas and beliefs about what people (which includes me) “should” (and, perhaps more importantly, “shouldn’t”) do. Things like “being polite” and “getting a job”. Again, nothing of this is immutable, but it takes time and effort to go against it.

Finally, there is “me”. A lot of what both the system and society teach have been internalized, making me fearful of going against them, making me reel against myself in my simultaneous quests for freedom and being accepted. 

The oppression of freedom: Having a free Sunday and not knowing for the hell of it what to do with yourself!
“The system” isn’t going to change any time soon I’m afraid, nor is “society”. Which leave “me”. I can change so that “what I want” coincides with “what I can get”; go with the flow, but try to steer a bit left or right once and awhile. That feels a lot like giving up, or more accurately, giving in.

Perhaps a more fruitful way of looking at it is to realize that there are more things in life than freedom. I actually enjoy a good challenge (of going against the flow?). And there is fulfillment in making others happy (which at times may entail being dull and predictable and “fitting in”). In fact, pure freedom, being able to do whatever I wanted, without any restraint, would very quickly become boring and meaningless.

Freedom is important, absolutely. But it’s not the end-all of happiness. I’ll definitely continue to work towards increasing it, but in balance with the other things that make life worthwhile. Something that increases slowly, sometimes is traded for something else, something even more important / enjoyable. I’m just happy I’m free to make those choices!


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

I love to connect, so if you have thoughts, ideas or questions based on this (or another) post, please leave me a comment!

Jan 302015
 

My original stint in London was supposed to have been 3 months. At the end of that, they weren’t tired of me yet, so I got extended by another 3. Not too long after that I was asked to stay a bit longer still.

That actually looks like quite a cool job... And a great one to take a day off of

That actually looks like quite a cool job… And a great one to take a day off of

Even though I was enjoying my assignment, I was also thinking about “moving on”. In other words, I wasn’t as attached to the job as I had been. Which gave space for some re-negotiating…

It’s a well known saying: “You work to live, you don’t live to work”. And so I asked whether they would consider keeping me on for four days, instead of the five I had been doing so far. Which, after some thinking, was accepted.

As mentioned, this was a while back, meaning that until my new contract came into force, I would still be on my old schedule. There is another relevant saying: “Good things come to those who wait” (with the addendum that you do have to ask first).

I’ve patiently waited and this week, today, was my first “day off”.

Bliss!

A recent article said that the more you earn, the more “valuable” your time seems and thus the more you have the feeling you have too little of it. One more thing to help make the trade-off between time and money…
Getting up normal time (as my girlfriend did have to go to work normally), catching up on E-mail, doing laundry, getting all sorts of goodies from the big(!) supermarket a bit further away, doing preparations to turn said goodies into a small all-british feast at dinner (they say that English cooking is one of the worst in the world. Try their roasts or puddings and you’ll think twice!), an afternoon nap, reading, some more preparations, writing this blog post.

And all of this without any sense of haste or the feeling that things have to be done.

It really is true, it’s much better to work to live than the other way around.

Maybe they’ll let me work three-and-a-half days per week?


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

I love to connect, so if you have thoughts, ideas or questions based on this (or another) post, please leave me a comment!

Jan 282015
 

My last blog post was about what gives me pleasure.  There I also remarked on the second thing you need for happiness: Purpose.

Teaching Peruvian kids English felt purposeful. When I got them to pay attention...

Teaching Peruvian kids English felt purposeful. When I got them to pay attention…

So, in this post I want to go into what feels “purposeful” for me (doing something that feels useful):

  • Writing (whether it’s my book, a blog post or my diary. Even (or perhaps especially) writing a todo list feels purposeful)
  • Cooking (when it’s not just for myself)
  • Playing sports (which also was on my pleasurable list)
  • Sleep (though not always; mostly when I really need it)
  • Giving a gift or doing something for someone
  • Making plans (perhaps this is why I do my monthly experiments; they let me think of what I’m going to do in the future)

As interesting as what is on this list (and on my list of pleasures), is what is not on it.

Commuting is definitely not on either list, even though it is something I spend a fair amount of time doing. Strangely enough, traveling is something that does give me pleasure, even if it is sitting dumbly on a bus. Interestingly, I’m writing this on my tube ride back home and that really does seem to make it better!

Second, work is not on either list. Parts off it could be, as I enjoy the creative part of programming or solving a particularly difficult (mathematical) problem. Some pleasure, but very little of it actually has purpose for me. There is the “making money” but that is more a necessity than that it is purposeful.

I imagine that work for a lot of people would be something that gives purpose. Maybe I’ll spend some more time (and another blog post) on analyzing that further.

Then there are some things that I think would feel full of purpose, but that I don’t actually do (that much). Most importantly, volunteering. I’ve done some in my life (giving children of asylum seekers an enjoyable day and doing the finances for an organization that built homes for people who had lost theirs in an earthquake). I enjoyed them, but I missed the (intellectual) challenge in them after a while.

What in life feels purposeful to you?

Jan 212015
 

Recently I read something interesting on leading a happy life.  The idea is that to be happy you need to have both pleasure and purpose in your life. 

image

Beautiful sights definitely are easiest to come by far away...

This resonated with me quite soundly, and being on my way back from a great vacation, the pleasure part has adequately been taken care of (I’m so happy to be heading back to my 9-to-5 existence…).

Pleasure (like a good vacation) for me consists of a number of things:

  • Good food
  • Being active (hiking, sports)
  • Companionship (spending time with friends, loved ones)
  • Experiencing something new (new food, different cultures, trying a new activity)
  • Sex (no need to explain I would hope)
  • Rest (afternoon naps, reading a book, lying by the sea / pool)
  • Beauty (beautiful sights, scarcely clad women, impressive paintings)

Being on vacation definitely makes it easier to indulge in the above, but all of them are possible to get a healthy dose of in every day life as well (though the boss might frown upon afternoon naps and scantily clad women might be hard to find in wintry London as well).

Vacation is great, but that is definitely in part because it’s a change from something else; eternal leisure would start to chafe at some point…
Reading back through the list above I feel that “being active” could use a boost in my daily life; on vacation there is time for everything, but with work getting in the way so much, the rest of the time we need to prioritize more. Still, it might be worthwhile to sacrifice a bit of rest (internet surfing) for that one and awhile.

What is on your list of pleasures? And are you happy with the balance between the different items?

Jan 092015
 

”If only I had the time!”

Never enough time for the important stuff, as the unimportant keeps interrupting...

Never enough time for the important stuff, as the unimportant keeps interrupting…

I would write my book, repair my saxophone, build the last part of my cupboard. I would start working on that model that has been in the back of my mind for over a year now. I would read all these wonderful books…

So many things to do, so little time to do them in.

In about 2.5 hours I’ll be heading off to the airport to fly back to London. I still need to pack my bag, but that should be 15 minutes. I need to have a bite to eat, but again, that won’t take up too much time. So, I have give-or-take two hours of unallocated time. And yet the question that pops up is: ”What can I do?!?”

Two hours isn’t anywhere near enough to finish my book or my cupboard or the model. It might be enough to fix my saxophone, but together with gathering all the stuff required (the screwdriver basically) and not having a clue about fixing saxophones, it just seems there is too high a risk I won’t be able to finish it in time.

And so I sit here, not so much bored, as restless. (Luckily there is always a blog-post to be written, something I do know I can finish within this amount of time.)

Writing a book or building a cupboard aren’t things to finish in an afternoon, they take days (weeks, months) of putting in a bit of effort, consistently. That consistency however is lacking; I know I won’t put in the effort tomorrow (or any day the coming two weeks), so why put it in now?

There were times when I really did put the effort in. While I was living in Lima for a few months I really had nothing better to do, so I actually wrote. I guess I understand those people who chose isolation for their work a bit better…
This of course becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, I don’t work on it today so there is no incentive to work on it tomorrow and knowing that I won’t work on it tomorrow, why do anything today? Because of course the goal is to finish whatever I’m working on.

And then I remember: Enjoy the process.

I write because I enjoy writing. I do woodworking because I enjoy pushing chisels through dead trees.

And I do. I really do! I love writing. I love woodworking. There is however something in me that really dislikes starting to write. It’s always easier to do something else, something that will have a clear beginning and end. Something that at least seems immediately useful…

This will take a bit more soul searching to get to grips with. And in the meantime, I think I’ll pack my bag and fix my saxophone…


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

I love to connect, so if you have thoughts, ideas or questions based on this (or another) post, please leave me a comment!