Why Our Art Matters


John Green made a fabulous video about artists and their work today using the metaphor of the world’s largest ball of paint. I let him tell the story:

He said we might put all our energy into painting that one layer, and making it the most beautiful, only for it to be painted over by others. In the end, our layer of paint did contribute to the size of the ball, to its magnificence. There will be people remembering how we painted that one layer. One day, they will be gone as well. The artwork remains.

As artists we spend a lot of time wondering about if it matters what we do. Certainly through the blog I have shared my work with more people than I would have ever imagined. But even this is temporary. At only a few years old I did a lot of arts and crafts. I loved that. I always glued pieces of paper together and drew on them. That was my art. It is probably tucked away in some box I will never find again. But it contributed to the ball of paint that is my life. Five years ago I started drawing portraits and I still have these first sketches in a binder. Another layer on the ball of paint. Now my artwork is a lot better than those old sketches. I have painted over the old layers. All this time invested contributed thin layers.

If we see our development as artists like that, no perceived failure will ever trouble us again. Because they are all just lumps and bumps in a layer of paint we will soon go over with another colour. We might decide that we don’t like this ball anymore and start a new one. We might glue some paper onto it. We might write some verses on it. But with everything we do, it grows. We grow.

We also spend some time discussing the inevitable question in our head: Are we really undiscovered geniuses or are we just normal human beings thinking too much? Can we really ever know? Is it important?

What do we want our art to do for ourselves? Do we want to be recognised in the streets for our artwork? Do we want to appear in fancy magazines? Do we want our art to sustain our lives? Or do we want to make people happy, make them think, bring them joy? Do we want to send a powerful message? When we pose these questions we will know what we expect from the world. What the world can expect from us.

A genius can work silently in their studio day after day, from dawn to dusk. A genius can get up at 4 in the morning to cram in some extra hours of painting before the day job, only to come home at night exhausted and tired. A genius can get up at 12, write for ten minutes, eat ice cream the whole day, and go to bed five hours later. A genius might have picked up ballet dancing at forty years old and be amazing, despite everything everyone ever told them. We are all geniuses in our own way. We make it work. We struggle through insecurities. Through self-hate. Through doubt. Through anger at ourselves and our equipment. At unsaved documents. At word counts that won’t grow. We will curse our writer’s block and the muse that has left us. We will curse ourselves most often. That is just part of the process. We go on anyway because we have to. We are artists.

Whatever you might want to create today, know, that it will count. It will count for your own development, your growth. It will count for the world. It will count for the large ball of paint that is our culture, and our common humanity. We have always created something to make life more beautiful. We have always used art as a means for communication, to express our wonder about the world. These are challenging times we live in – let your art tell the story of this time. Use it to create even more. Art is what connects us on a much deeper level and this connection is what we need right now. There is so much division, hate, and fear out there. Let’s work on the beautiful ball of paint together that is our planet Earth.

In which way are you an artist genius? Let’s have a little chat in the comments!

Love.


We never thought that it would happen. Now it is official. We have to go on, work on.

The moment Trump took over the social media platforms as a president, the pages on the White House website concerned with Climate Change and the LGBTQ+ community were shut down. Today a lot more things happened that frighten me. This is the world we will live in now.

As a student, as an environmentalist, a feminist, a human being, I fear for the world. But fear is the wrong incentive here. We always have to fight to make something better out of this world, to make it a safer, more equal and loving place for everyone. I still believe in people, I still believe in change.

We live in times where facts are less significant than feelings. You can state something which you deny the next day. We can make instant comments on every subject. This is due to social media and the presence of news all around us. You can offer an opinion seconds after you have read about something. The thought process, the critical analysis is lost. False news lead to international diplomatic conflicts. This has to stop.

Let’s put these points back on our agenda:
Respect.
Honesty.
Tolerance.
Openness.
Understanding.
Empathy.
Love.

These are the grounding principles of interaction between humans. We need to make these the principles of our societies! They need to be the guiding ideas of our every action. We need to consider other people as complex. We need to step back and analyse the situation from a different point of view.

Why did we lose these qualities in our communities when they are so essential in our relationships? Why did we move back from communication to just shouting at each other? Why are we trying to prove others wrong when we are never faultless ourselves?

It’s important to distinguish between feelings and thoughts. Find the source of your feelings and analyse how you drew conclusions. Often we make rash decisions because we are lead by unclear assumptions. Break them down into pieces and identify which of the facts coincide with your personal values and your goals.

We are bombarded by horror news and hateful comments. It’s our choice to change that system. You can either not be part of it or do something against it.

A friend and I talked about the book “How to win friends and influence people” which I really want to read. There are some important messages in there which I liked:
Give people credit for their work.
Be interested in their lives and consider their point of view.
Build a good reputation in your mind for a person to live up to.

Yesterday, I handed the application for my semester abroad in and I came to the office of the tutor with a big smile on my face. I thanked her for all the support she gave us in this process and told her that she does a great job. She asked me what she could improve for the students next year. She told me she has a lot of trouble with some of the universities. She talked about the difficulties she faced and confided in me.

Every time I had gone to her office before, she had been stressed out, busy, annoyed. She didn’t even want to answer my questions. This time, I gave her credit because she had helped me a lot. I was kind and open and genuinely interested in her work. She asked me for advice. She gave something back – trust.

We all have the capacity to improve the relationships with people who are important to us. Even with those we just met. By being kind and open. We must not be divided because in our union lies our power.

Everything feels like it’s falling apart. The world crumbles. We seek places to hide and grieve. What we really need to do is stand up tall. Stronger than ever. Growing with the task before us. We need to lay out a foundation of love and companionship to save this earth. This will help us with all the challenges we are facing. We are all in this together, we are all humans. Love is a verb, go practise it!

NaNoWriMo Day 27: Your Personal Legend


Today I finished reading two books: Barack Obama’s “Dreams from My Father” and Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”. On November the 15th I wrote about the concept of comparative reading, which is quite interesting. Normally, you take two books about the same topic or person and read them at the same time. Notice what is left out in one, what is stressed in the other. Focus on how the voices are different telling these stories.

These two books I read are not in any way about the same topic, and yet… They both had a great impact on my thinking. Books always resonate with me for a few days, sometimes months. In rare cases years. They have to be either very good or very bad. However, I have only read two books in the last three years that I really didn’t like. That’s fortunate.

Let’s dive into these two tales and extract some of the things that left me in awe.

I started to read Obama’s biography of his earlier life in an attempt to understand what his story was, what is behind this man who became the president. Where did he summon all this energy from, where did he found his beliefs and values? He is a fantastic writer and the most touching part for me was the one when he described his social work. The challenges he had to face. All the people working against him on his path to try and give people better lives. All the doubts he had, that I suppose everyone after school is facing. I often said aloud to my book: Look, it’s going to be fine. You don’t know it yet but you will be the president. Just keep on working.

Just keep on working. He has such an endurance and strength that I can only admire. Which is essentially the message of “The Alchemist” in the end. Everyone has a personal legend that one has to follow. If one has this desire, this mission, the universe will help with all its power to ensure it comes true.

There is an underlying language in this world which everyone understands. In “The Alchemist” it is love, so says Santiago to the wind and the sun. It’s a reoccurring theme. The Englishman in the book has learned the “world language” Esperanto and yet, he isn’t able to understand the voice of the world. Because it is not in words that these messages are spoken in. The alchemist always tells the boy to look deeper and listen to his heart. “Wherever your heart is, there you will find you treasure.” Isn’t that beautiful? Through listening to his heart, the boy begins a journey that goes along the way of his personal legend. He overcomes many obstacles and in the end… he arrives home again. Maybe that’s the place where we belong after all our journeys.

You can see that in “Dreams from My Father”, too. He always searched for the place he belonged, for the stories of his family. Who his father really was. He thought about traveling to his family all the time when he was working in Chicago. His entire life, really. Just before Harvard, he went to Kenya to meet his family, to finally get to know the stories that he always wanted to know. With this knowledge, he could return home. A more complete man than before, because he had found a different part of himself.

I’m moved by these two books as they tell the stories of dreams and passions, of roads to success and personal happiness. They are positive books, showing that change is possible. That one can find a purpose in life and follow it. Despite the odds which are never too difficult to overcome. It’s sometimes nice to believe that a path has been set out. That we just have to follow it. On the other hand, that can also be limiting. Led by our own curiosity we will, sooner or later, find our personal legend. If we are brave. Coelho pays a lot of attention to his descriptions of courage in the book. They appear in the little things: Santiago leaves his sheep behind to search for a treasure. He has the courage to stand up for his own words, what he has seen in the desert. This leads the alchemist on his path. His courage is valued, only through its power, he is able to go on. Complete his journey.

“To be creative you must have courage. Do not ask for opinions. Just do it.”

That’s a quote from Coelho that I as an artist enjoy particularly. He is so right. How often have I discarded projects simply due to fear? How often have I wondered what others might think? How often ripped sketches in pieces, how often deleted words and pages already written…

If we let ourselves be overcome by fear, we don’t see our paths in front of us anymore. We have all experienced that. Fear turns you blind, it makes you run with your eyes closed. In the completely wrong direction. Fear is not a good leader in life. It drives you forward of course. The fear of failing, of embarrassing yourself, the fear of dying. The fear of being alone. There are many fears we have to face in our lives. But they are not there to lead us but to be overcome on a greater path. We should be driven by our love, by our passions, our curiosity, our courage. Those are the companions you would like to have on your journey. Those are the friends to search for. Fear always comes back to us, we don’t have to search for it. It’s humane to live with fear. It shouldn’t consume us, though. If there is too much fear, we will stand still. Anxious of taking another step. Start moving backwards, retreating. Do you want your life to be a hide-and-seek game with your own brain?

Showing the world love always guides love back to you. Believing in yourself, in your luck will always help you achieve wonderful things. There was a line in “The Alchemist” that struck me: There was a monk who the alchemist gave some gold for his hospitality. The monk said that it is far too much for his services. The alchemist answered: Don’t say it was too much because life might listen. And the next time you will get less.

This is not a demand to be selfish. He is telling us the importance of acknowledging our own value. A friend told me that you let yourself be hurt by others just to that extend in which you harm yourself. If you are very insecure, you don’t stand up to the ones that hurt you. Because you see your own value too low to be able to fight. That realisation hits deep. I’m guilty of lowering myself, having huge insecurities. It’s fear in its most tragic appearance.

What do we take from all this? Find your dream, find you personal legend. Do whatever it takes to identify it and then follow it. With every last bit of courage you can summon. You would not want your life to be dominated by fear. I know it seems unbelievable but there is always a way out. However difficult all the challenges seem you face, there are always people there for you. Who will lead you through the desert to your own treasure. Who will wait for you to come back home. Who will cheer for you on your paths and who will walk together with you for a while.

In his book, Obama described his rebel teenage years. Where he didn’t want to go to school, was discouraged and hopeless. Lost. He found his way again. He found his family. He made their stories his own. He followed his path to help people. He worked hard despite fear and people not valuing his work. Then he became the freaking president of the US. That’s a life path!

Be courageous, admire the wonders around. This earth is so beautiful! We only have that single one. Stop for a minute in whatever you doing and say in your head, what you are grateful for in this world. Who has guided you, who has encouraged you to go on. Write them down and look at them every now and then. You are a wonderful human being and you deserve all the love you are given.

If you feel discouraged, listen to Florence and the Machine and let her tell you:

“Hey, look up. You don’t have to be a ghost here amongst the living. You are flesh and blood. And you deserve to be loved and you deserve what you are given. And oh, how much!”

Oh, how much…

Current Word Count: 45257

Education.


No matter what anybody tells you words and ideas can change the world.

says Mr Keating in the Dead Poet’s Society, which is one of my favourite films. If you are able to raise your voice and stand up for your rights, you can achieve wonderful things.

In the last days I have been very inspired by the many talks of Malala Yousafzai I listened to. Furthermore, I finished reading her book which I started ages ago. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Her endurance, her strength, her wise words show me that you always have to speak up and that education is the key for peace and development. Here are some awesome speeches and interviews: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOqIotJrFVM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAhjiUh-Pho

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKIQ_AyLi30

I have had the privilege to get a great education, primary and secondary and now even university. I will forever be grateful for that. I love studying and reading and following my curiosity. I love to go beyond what is in the curriculum, ask questions and teach myself new things. When times are difficult I step back and tell myself what a great honour it is for me to have this opportunity and then I go on and study for that exam.

Today, I went for a run with my lovely friend Izzy today and our conversations are always very deep and honest. We talked about our school system and it was the reason for this little text. In schools in Germany you are often only taught what is in the curriculum. You do not learn how to study. You do not learn how to be interested in a topic. You do not learn how to solve problems and seek answers for yourself. You do not learn to think critically.
In their studies, teachers learn a lot about their subjects but hardly anything about how to teach. As I give private lessons now to students, I know how hard it can be to explain something to a pupil who doesn’t want to learn. In those moments I think back to my school experience, search for teachers I admire and ask myself what they would do. I find my answers in only two or three of them. Three from a period of 12 years!

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. Albert Einstein

I believe that it is as important to know about your subject, as it is to know how to talk to your students. How to motivate them. Being excited about is not required if you want to be a teacher. If you are highly motivated, you will soon see that not many people value that. You simply lose the spirit after some time. We do not value teachers who look beneath the surface or try to encourage critical thinking. We do not value teachers who want you to read and learn all by yourself. We do not value teachers who teach you about life and morality.

This is the situation in Germany. We still have a good school system, though, because every girl and boy is able to go to a school. Globally, the statistics are shocking. 60 million children in 2013 did not go to primary school which is devastating. Or as the UNESCO put it:

Among children of primary school age, 1 out of 10 girls and 1 out of 12 boys were out of school in 2013.

You can have a closer look at the figures here: http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Documents/fs-31-out-of-school-children-en.pdf

Schools are the key to a peaceful world. Education teaches us respect, tolerance, patience, understanding. It teaches us about culture and values, about moral and our human rights.

When in September 2015, about one year ago, the world leaders decided on the new global goals I was thinking about which my number one priority would be. I decided for number 4. Here is why: If investing in education, we can end wars and therefore bring peace and better lives to people. Education for every child is the first step in the direction of gender equality. Children have to learn about our planet and how to treat it, how to act responsible and sustainable.

In sociology in the first semester we had an interesting graph: People with higher education are more likely to act environmentally responsible. Out of this group, women are more likely to do so than men. What are the consequences? We have to educate people from a very young age and provide them with primary and secondary education to show them the importance of treating our mother earth right.
Many girls are not able to go to school because of war, of cultural aspects and they will stay at home. They will raise their kids to believe in the same values as they do. There is no escape except, they receive a quality education. It empowers them, gives strength to their voices and makes them stand up for their rights and beliefs. We need more women leaders in the world and I believe that they will also bring change in the way we treat our environment. If they are not in positions for change, they will at least ask the right questions, they will speak up and their combined voices will lead to rethinking of the challenges we face today.

I’m curious…

Which of the global goals would you choose as your priority?

What are your thoughts on education?

Hope.


Climate change causes more and more horrible storms and floods and is destroying homes all over the world. People are suffering from droughts and water scarcity, they can’t feed themselves or their children because it doesn’t rain anymore. This is the reality we live in and there is no point denying it. However, there are still people who believe that climate change is not real. That our earth is not heating up, the ice is not melting, the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere not rising, the climate not becoming more extreme. There are people who ignore the opinions of experts, who simply do not accept a reality we have known for so long.

It may be because I am a student and students have been driving change since there were universities. It may be because I’m young and have not yet seen my ideals shattered to the ground, because I still believe in the good in people. But why not? Is that necessarily a bad thing? To believe in humankind? As a young person I hear a lot of that: Oh, you don’t know the world yet. You are so naive, that’s not how the world works. Grow up.

If growing up means losing your ideals, I’m not into it. If only young people had the power to change things because they are naive, revolutions would never have happened. Revolutions happen because there are people in every situation, every age, people who just don’t want to live that way anymore. Together, people have a great power. This is what I believe to be the only way this whole thing could work.

Listen, there are problems we can only fix economically. But who is going to communicate these changes to the public? Who is going to implement them? Yes, we are. It’s on us to change this world and make it a better place. I believe we can do this. I believe there are huge numbers of wonderful people who want to make a difference.

In the documentary about the “The Yes Men” the two activists did a fake conference announcing that the United States will change their energy sources to 100% renewable until 2020. The people attending, high security and weapons industry bosses, danced together in the end, lead by a Native American, celebrating this announcement. They want to be good! They want to bring change!

I have a problem with saying, that big changes have to be made on an economic level. Sure, it seems to be easier than changing people’s minds. We have a greater power through little bits of paper or 1s and 0s than we have on the actual brains of people. Here lies the base of my concern. What would happen if we don’t let people themselves change the world they are living in? What does that tell us about society?

  1. We come to believe that people are not capable to bring change. This is simply false. Looks at all the revolutions we have had, all the rights movements in the last centuries! They are surely not completed yet, no question, but we made a progress!
  2. People will say that this problem is only solvable on an abstract basis and therefore don’t do anything anymore. Place their lives in the hands of big financial bosses. We are nearly there already.
  3. We all will lose hope that ANYthing will EVER change. When that happens, everything becomes irrelevant. So what, we are emitting more and more greenhouse gases? So what, we get killed by hurricanes and floods… We can’t do anything, it just happens to us.

This is why we need HOPE. I believe in the magic of hope. It drives people to make things possible that they never even dreamed of. It makes people get working on problems that concern us all. Hope makes people move forward and this is what we need here. Every small action to counteract climate change helps. It may not be on a big scale, it might only matter to you personally but it does have an influence. It all adds up in the end. If you take the bike instead of the car tody – I want to cheer you! It might feel insignificant but it isn’t. Our actions influence our whole environment and maybe because you didn’t take the car today, your neighbour doesn’t either. See where this is leading?

If we still have the hope that our children will see a better world, we will make it a better place for them. If we still have hope, we can bring about change. I believe in humankind and yes I may be naive. Let me word it another way: I am hopeful and so should you be.

(If you are interested, watch this awesome documentary on climate change with Bill Nye, it’s really good. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29Xv_npmS6E)

What are your thoughts on this? I would love to know!

Snowden.


Technology is amazing. The way we use it today is out of our control, though. It shouldn’t be but it is. The amazing ideas we are able to share through networks are used against people. If they aren’t, they are at least collected. Huge piles of data. On every one of us. Skyped with your mum? Walked your dog? Talked to your sister about this upcoming marriage? Shared pictures with your family? We know about everything!!!

I just watched the film ‘Snowden’ and it obviously got me thinking. What is this crazy world we live in? Big Brother and all… Not that I didn’t know it. Except… Who does, really? Do we know what is going on? Would it be good for us? To grasp the dimension of these actions? That all our data is collected? Everything?

I find it very hard to understand this. Maybe it wouldn’t be good if I did. Bad for the paranoia I guess. Our information is used and the profiles of people are connected to other profiles to other profiles. A database on everything we do.

My dad always says that the safest connection is no connection. What does this mean in this special context? Should we shut down all our accounts? Say goodbye to the social media platforms? Throw stones at cameras in public places? Do we even have a chance?

We have two choices. Either we change ourselves or we change the system. They always tell us that they collect all this information for our own security. I have no doubt that they do. To which percentage is this really useful, that’s the question here. I am not informed enough to make a judgement on that question. I am not sure, though, that we need to collect EVERY INFORMATION on EVERY PERSON to make sure we are save. I don’t get this system. It is frightening me. Since this all got public, who hasn’t thought about what they are texting or writing or posting on the Internet for a second time? Who hasn’t been influenced? Who hasn’t put tape on their webcam or at least thought about it? Who hasn’t watched a camera closely and wondered who might sit on the other side? It is a terrifying world we live in or at least they want us to believe that. To justify the actions.

Now we have to decide. Do we start building a defence system in our computers? Do we start using more encryption etc? Would that even help? Do we stop using them at all? Or do we change the way this information is dealt with. How it is collected. Do we change the way, our security is protected without knowing what Susan texted her boyfriend today? What the best apple pie recipe from aunt Rose is?

Many people say they don’t care about this because they have no secrets. Oh come on. You wouldn’t want your mum to read your diary, right? There is a reason why people invented doors. Why they invented curtains and blinds and why they don’t tell the truth all the time. This makes us humans! We all have secrets and that is perfectly fine. There is a reason for that. Up to the point where these don’t harm other people. Next time you say that you have nothing to hide… Just think how it would be to be completely honest with your mother-in-law. Yeah, this new hairless dog is veeeery cute and of course her cooking is spleeeendid and she looks amazing in this pink and purple curtain she is wearing. We are not honest all the time. It’s good that way. Just think about your mother-in-law seeing you talking to your spouse about this family celebration, laughing about her awful cooking skills. You wouldn’t want that.

These are all very small and laughable examples but we do have a right on the protection of our data. We have rights and I think they should be protected. Along with our security. I believe this is both possible at the same time. And if data is collected to gain an economic or political benefit… There must be something wrong with the system, too. This problem will probably be solved soon. When EVERYBODY is spying on EVERYONE. No one will gain any benefit from that. Also, talking helps. International groups sitting together and talking about problems. I’m a big believer in the talking bit. Where we work collectively together and not against each other to make this world a little better. With a little less data collection and more reasonable thinking.

I am a Feminist.


I am a feminist. It is a troublesome word. I do not hate men. I am not offended if a man opens the door for me. I wear make-up. It is not about all of those things.

I believe in the equality of men and women. It’s as simple as that.

I believe that women and men should have equal opportunities. I believe that people should be paid equal money for equal work regardless of gender. I believe that women and men both should be allowed to do with their bodies whatever they like as long as it does not harm to others. I will turn very angry when being catcalled and I have absolutely no understanding of that.

Feminism is sometimes described as a type of glasses. If you dive a little into the topic, you will spot sexism everywhere. Sometimes you have to put these glasses down because it gets a little overwhelming. I am not that kind of woman who says that everything is sexist. I live in Germany, a country with relatively good emancipation and with quite good equality between men and women. But we are not there yet! We have not reached equality, nowhere on this earth! This is why it takes a movement like feminism to change it.

Many people have attempted to change the word. Because of its associations. However, I am of the opinion that we should keep the word. It’s an established thing, why change it? As long as people fight for equality, why fight about the word?

  1. I want girls to have the best education they can possibly have – not set by their gender. Malala Yousafzai is a huge advocate for girl’s and children’s rights and I have the deepest respect and admiration for her which is also the reason I drew her for this post.
  2. I want to see more world leaders who are women, I want to see more women in higher jobs because they handle problems differently and this is a huge advantage. They should be there not because of quotas, but because of intelligence and capability.
  3. I want men and women to work together in all kinds of jobs, adding up knowledge to make the world a better place.
  4. I want to see no more little girls who want to be engineers and are held back by their families because they are girls. We lose so much, not allowing them to work on their dreams!

This list is so insufficient, but please tell me if you identify as a feminist or not and why. What are your goals for the world? How is the equality of men and women in your country? Which are the most important problems we should be dealing with now? And how?

I read a few books in the last weeks which really inspired me and made me like the fact that I am a woman.

I would like to recommend:

“The Color Purple” which is obviously a really basic read for aspiring feminists, if you want to say it like that. Read it.

“Half of a Yellow Sun” and “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie. I have no words to describe how much I adore this woman. She did an amazing Ted Talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg3umXU_qWc) on the topic of feminism which inspired me a lot and made me realise so many things. Her writing is both gentle and honest, but can have a cruel narrative, showing the horrors of this world. They are worth reading. They really are.

“How to be a Woman” by Caitlin Moran. This one is really really great. It answers so many questions and it gives an insight on how a female brain works. Not that I didn’t know that. It makes me feel less of a freak. She did write about that topic quite brilliantly.

img_20160908_163842

One last resource I would like to offer you: Emma Watson has a book club in which some of the books I read are discussed. I especially enjoyed a conversation between her and Gloria Steinem. You can watch it here, it is fabulous.

Feminism is a HUGE topic and I will be talking about it more often now. There are many issues that interest me. Feminism and Sustainable Development, Feminism and the Media… Lots more to come. If you have any suggestions, please share them and I will talk about them.

Xxx

Verena