The last time I was really happy, I was ice bathing in Finland. All my senses were present in the situation, busy figuring out what was happening with my body. Fascinated by the thousand unknown sensations and thoughts that triggered this experience, I was unable to ponder on the past or the future. It seemed meaningless to the here and now. I describe this state as happiness, but I am not sure if that's what it is. I was busy exploring the spectrum between pain and pleasure. Not necessarily a spectrum everyone is ready to explore.
My time on the Kazbegi was similar. A hard-earned experience between well-being and self-abandonment. And while I was sitting up there on the mountain, I was painfully aware of how I waste my life away in the cities of this world. How little I profit from society and other people. How I am suffocated by the expectations that are set on me: job, health insurance, apartment, bathroom (with daylight), washing machines, dishwashers, dryers, fruits, vegetables, marriage, children, parties, stress, work. All these so-called important things, do not contribute to my happiness. They make each other possible but lie like lead on my consciousness.
I asked a few other German tourists how they felt in our system and why they wanted to live in it especially in contrast to the Georgian way of doing things and their answers described above all their fears.
- a job to have enough money.
- an apartment, to have a plae to retreat to.
- a bathroom with daylight to have good living conditions.
- a family and children to keep you healthy, that you may share your life and not be alone.
- health insurance to make sure someone will take care of you.
- Parties, so you have friends.
Many of these "gadgets" are only needed when I work 60% of my time sleep or party in the remaining time. Am I still alive then? And do I feel happy in one of these activities? If not, why am I standing up in the morning? Why do I make the standard of the world my standard? Why do I have to be part of this hamster wheel? Why do I need to find happiness in this so-called "progressive" society? My idea of happiness looks much more like living here. Simple but full of riches. Without a washing machine, dishwasher or dryer, no need for running water, using bio-toilets, eating self-grown tomatoes, plums, pears, eggs from my chickens, etc.
The people of Georgia are much poorer than Germans, but their quality of life is at least as high, if not higher. They don't use many machines and hold almost all their cows, sheep or chickens. They live in intergenerational communities. The generational contract is direct and personal. Every family negotiates it.
As a society, we have decided to de-personalise this process. After all, it's great to have such excellent medical care. It's more comfortable, painless, better organised, but not happier. We are dazed. The spectrum of our experience is limited. If I imagine to one day live in a nursing home, I get sick. It's a bizarre grey prison. Here in Georgia, it's hard to watch people age. They are visible everywhere. It's hard but honest. After all, getting old is one of the cruellest things that happen to us. On a lighter note, often, the old folk contribute a significant part to the life of younger generations by providing the family with fruit and canned food, feeding the chickens and caring for the children when the parents are at work.
Progress and happiness have nothing to do with one another. But should progress not lead to happiness? That's the promise, isn't it? Aren't we doing things fundamentally wrong when we lose sight of this connection?
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