Longing for Utopia, and why we need to go on nevertheless

Garden centres always make me happy. Looking at the abundance  of plants blooming, the many people around me admiring them, watching what they pick and buy, taking home little pieces of beauty for their gardens and balconies. Strolling through the lanes full of colours and scents, buzzing insects sitting on flowers, I take my time to enjoy the sights. 

A piece of paradise.

The same goes for gardens, whether it’s an impressive botanical garden or your neighbour’s small private paradise behind the fence. They stand for getting on with life, planting seeds that one day turn into something amazing. No matter what dies or gets broken, life is always coming back. Each year. People with a garden don’t give up. 

It lifts my heart to observe nature awakening, blooming and spreading so fast, almost like an explosion of greenery. Makes it easy to be happy and thankful for these lavish botanical gifts – which are for everyone to enjoy, and can help chasing away the dark clouds in our minds.

Finding and holding on to the good amidst the bad is how we carry on in life. I had to remind myself lately that it is the only way to move on and find some peace. Not expecting things to turn out perfect. Just loving what is, enjoying the good I see, and otherwise, accepting imperfect life happening. Not wasting my time fighting reality. 

Until the mind is open, the heart stays closed. The open mind is the key to the open heart. Byron Katie

Many of us are in such a constant fight though. Whenever an idea is brought forward, an invention that will make a difference, a decision that has the potential to chart the course into a positive direction, it does not even take a minute for doubts being voiced and concerns raised. Because “not everything has been perfectly thought through”. Because there are flaws in the concept – which is normal.

Fighting climate change? Of course, but having to change our lifestyle for it? 

Eliminating hate content on Facebook through organizations fact-checking posts? Yes, but we don’t want our right to free speech to be curbed. And they cannot do it right or well enough anyway.

It’s always coming down to “yes, but”.

One recent example actually made me laugh. German government introduced a flat rate ticket for 9 Euro allowing people unlimited travel on local/regional transport services during one selected month in the summer. A great idea. Within days, 7 million tickets were sold – which speaks for itself. 

Well, it did not take long for complaints to start. Train infrastructure and delays being a notorious problem in Germany, the system was overwhelmed quickly by the sudden increasing demand. No surprise. 

These complaints on social media convey a very typical picture for picking apart a good idea because it is not perfect. One comment even demanded that “first the train system should be improved before launching such an initiative”. 

A large number of people liked this move nevertheless, otherwise, they would not have bought the ticket. Taking bumps in the process into account is part of the deal. Not everyone wants to accept it though, but on the other hand, you can never please everybody.

Complaining about each and everything because of lack of perfection is a behaviour I often perceive. Very easy to do of course, because nothing on earth ever will be perfect. Whatever decision I am looking at in life – I could always complain about it if I wanted to (in German we call it “looking for the hair in the soup”).

To stay in the above example: what’s better? Do nothing and wait for the day to come when everything is perfectly prepared and then launch this program? Or rather launch it well knowing there will be problems, for which solutions need to be found anyway? Thereby creating an opportunity and the  pressure to tackle them.

That’s how progress and change is initiated. Whatever does not function well, suddenly becomes visible and directs focus. It is a manner of speeding up the solution-finding process. It takes courage though. 

When we stop opposing reality, action becomes simple, fluid, kind, and fearless. Byron Katie

Expecting perfection in life can only bring disappointment. There will never be a time when everything is in perfect balance, or things working out always to our advantage. We might wish for a life with less disturbances, less worries, problems, fears, pain, and obstacles in our way. It is a very human desire. But that’s not how life works.

Even for the big challenges the world is facing, we would very much prefer perfect solutions. To have it all done and over with in one go: climate change, wars, inequality, injustice, oppression. We just want it to stop, as if by magic. Someone please, take a decision and then the nightmare would be over.

Exhausted, we are desperately longing for Utopia. A place without sorrows or fears, calm and serene. 

I understand this desire so very well and I share it. Thoughts like this are going through my mind quite often.

Doesn’t matter what it is about and in which context – at work, at home, in politics… Wouldn’t it be great if other people just did what I wanted? To be more kind, peaceful, tolerant, patient, organized, reasonable, … the list is endless. Frustrating and useless thoughts. 

I should rather be happy every time something works out, a right decision is taken, or a move initiated into a good direction. Never being content with whatever happens is a strong human reflex, and – on the positive side – a driver of change.

As much as I long for everything to be in harmony one day, I have to say goodbye to this wishful thinking. I won’t live to see solutions being found to all problems of humanity in my lifetime. It will go on long after I am gone.

Loving what is – as Byron Katie advocates in “The Work” – does not mean to endure injustice. It means not fighting reality. Acknowledging the inevitable fallibility of humankind. Fighting against windmills does not change a thing and serves nobody – it only wastes my precious time and energy.

Hoping for Utopia and trying to get at least part of it realized is not wrong, and we need to continue holding on to this dream.

But we need to approach it with more focus, without hesitation and with courage, while achieving peace of mind for ourselves.

Don’t forget: whatever good we manage to bring into this world, however small it is – it is a little piece of paradise already.

And it can tip the scale one day.

Finding yourself and your very own way

It has taken me ages to feel in sync with myself. I wish someone had told me when I was young how important it actually is to follow my heart and my dreams. To move forward regardlessly. To learn and develop, to try out things without being afraid to make a mistake, certainly not striving to be perfect. Life is about the journey – not about making the “right” decision each time.

Today I know that life is a journey and not a destination, the purpose being to learn as much as you can and then refine and fine-tune your path, finding your way, going left or right without being afraid. When I am looking at young girls today I feel the need to tell them exactly that. 

We get caught up so easily in what others might think of us, keeping up appearances or putting on a show, hiding who we really are. Afraid of showing our true self, being afraid of rejection and ridicule – of which we get a lot at school, which often shapes us impacting out adult lives. We all long for acceptance and belonging. 

And today, with all the social media circus around us, it is even harder to be yourself, especially when you are a girl. It takes courage, and a good backup at home from parents who acknowledge the importance of encouraging their children. Knowing that strength is about being true to yourself. That showing vulnerability is essential in finding your way forward into this very difficult and complex world. 

Life is hard in the face of adversity, but it is possible to get through it. Knowing the tools to use while being in the middle of the storm helps a lot. Thankfully, there are parents who have a lot of awareness about this, raising their children carefully and mindfully into strong, responsible, kind adults who are not afraid to speak their minds and stand up for themselves.

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing. (Albert Schweitzer)

My late aunt – my father’s sister who was my godmother – encouraged me a lot when I was a child, in a rather indirect way. She reassured me, offering me a safe place where I felt I could be myself from a very young age onwards, like a safe haven. She never said anything directly to me about what she perceived until when I was an adult, was never judgemental in any way. She just gave me her unconditional love and understanding, her support and kindness. She was a good role-model, patient and good-humoured. 

Looking back I understand more now. She was the good spirit in my life and she did a great job in raising me – albeit from a distance as we did not have the chance to meet very often. But spending time with her was always pleasant, it felt like an oasis of well-being. We were one of a kind and I felt very close to her. She inspired me in many ways. I owe to her my creativity, a lot of my interests, among them my love for nature. And above all, I owe to her the assuredness that I am me and have the right to be myself and to be accepted as I am. Whatever other people might think or say. 

That’s why I feel the need to give back, particularly to young girls and to younger colleagues. To tell them – in my own rather direct and straightforward manner – how important it is to be in sync with yourself, to find your own way and not to shy back from going wherever you feel the need to go because your heart tells you so. 

To experiment and not being scared of failure. To realize that making mistakes is part of the deal and not something to punish yourself for. To listen more to your heart than to other people’s opinions.That life is about a life-long learning process. Getting impulses fosters understanding and growth. I have learnt the same way and that helped me become who I am today.

Do what your feel in your heart is right. You’ll get criticized for it anyway.(Eleanor Roosevelt)

Everyone has to gain their very own experiences in life, of course. And some of us tend to make it harder on ourselves as it should be, but that is also a way of learning. 

Life is constantly changing. We have to walk our own path, not somebody else’s. Nothing is carved out for us – we have to go where no-one else did go before, step by step. When I was young, I did not think about that. I wanted to do what was “right”. Not straying left or right. 

Little did I know. That’s not what you learn at school – sadly, because that is what actually matters. It could help to push our boundaries, and to save young people from a lot of heartache and insecurities. A lot what we are suffering from is based on our own exaggerated expectations, something which we even might have taken over from our parents, without questioning. It’s pressure we needlessly put on ourselves. It is – as so often – the thoughts in our heads that are the root cause of our misery.

Eventually all things fall into place. Until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moment, and know EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON. (Albert Schweitzer)

The first time I really felt in sync with myself was at the age of 53. Well. You are never too old and it’s never too late. That I know for sure. Meanwhile.

Things take as long as they take and it’s different for everyone. No need to be sad or upset about it. There is always a reason why things take time, like a seed that needs to grow. Like we need to be ready for the next step. Let’s not forget: the grass does not grow faster because you pull at it, right?

For me, it translates directly into the question: what is our purpose in life – why are we here?

  • To learn – about ourselves.
  • To find freedom – to free our minds from the expectation of others. From our own notions of how we are supposed to be. 
  • To get clarity about what really matters and where our priorities need to be.

Isn’t it a fascinating journey we are on? We can grow as old as we want to – we are still learning, developing, changing our preferences and interests, discovering new insights and understanding more and more how it is all connected. 

I am waiting for the moment when I will realize how everything falls into place. Sometimes I feel like getting a hint of it, as if the clouds are lifting for a brief moment to show the sun or a small piece of blue sky. 

I have the feeling it will be amazing. 

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