Set back

So, at the moment my family and I are in the middle of a life altering process that involves 1. selling our home, 2. me quitting my job, 3. our children saying goodbye to their school and kindergarten, 4. selling most of the stuff we own, 5. saying goodbye to friends and family, and when all that is done; 6. moving to the other side of the planet. We are slowly, but surely moving towards having everything ready for our departure.

And then suddenly this week, right before our beautiful apartment was ready to be put on the market, a pipe started leaking in our bathroom, dripping through the ceiling to our underneath neighbours. It looks like we have to get a new floor in the bathroom, and I am honestly feeling very discouraged by the whole thing.


Now, we have lived here for five years. And we absolutely love our home. It is beautiful and spacious and extremely central. When we first decided that we wanted to move to Bali, I was very hesitant about selling the apartment, and we were discussing whether we should keep it and just rent it out, because it is such a special place with an amazing atmosphere. However, we decided that selling the apartment is the right thing to do, because liberating ourself and working on our ability to detach ourselves from physical belongings is a big part of this journey. But I must admit that it has been hard for me to come to terms with having to let go of this beautiful place. It is definitely the best home I have ever lived in.

Anyway, before I drift away in homeliness-romance, let’s get back to the leak. We have never before had any leaks in our home. So why now? This feels like a huge obstacle and I am trying to make sense of why this is happening right now. Is there a reason for it? Are we not supposed to move? My head is full of thoughts – and I haven’t been able to sleep very much this week, which has given me a lot of time to think!
Of course I have no idea why this is happening right now, just when everything was ready for going online with the apartment, but making sense of it feels important. One could argue that this is just one of those things that happens, that stuff like this is our of our hands. But I feel that the way we think about things and our energies affect what happens around us, especially when things happen at a time like this to a home that you love, but are getting ready to let go.

Let me elaborate on my thoughts that might seem rather “new age” and fluffy by an example of a previous experience. A couple of years ago I was going to India with a colleague and a group of students. We were going to Kerala, and would be away from home for 11 days. My youngest son was at the time two years old, and even though I was excited about going because I love travelling, I could feel that having to leave him was very hard for me. And when the day for my departure came, and my airport taxi came to pick me up, I wasn’t at all emotionally ready for leaving him. But I did; I kissed goodbye and waved from the street and got into the taxi, but I couldn’t stop crying, which was unusual, because I have been away from my family on many occasions before (I even went to Sri Lanka the year before when my youngest was just 11 months old, and both he and I managed fine). Anyway, to make a long story short, our plane for India was unable to get in the air; there was some sort of a problem with it. So after spending the entire day in the airport we were sent home again, and booked for a new flight the following afternoon. And funnily that was exactly what I needed; after spending a nice evening with my family and keeping my youngest son home from nursery the next day, I was emotionally ready to leave. And so I went, and the trip was amazing.
Of course I am not suggesting that I had something to do with the plane not being able to take off – and trust me, spending a day in the airport with a frustrated group of students was not exactly great. But somehow, the disruption made me ready to detach myself from my family for the period of the journey.

I have the feeling that what is happening now is similar. I have had a very hard time getting used to the thought of letting this place go. I am very attached to it – actually we all are. And maybe this disruption will allow me to detach myself and get emotionally ready for the move? Of course the leak is a pain, there is nothing good to say about that. But my energy has been blocked; I have really not been emotionally clarified. Deep down I know that making this move is the right thing for us to do. It just feels SO right on so many levels. And this obstacle might just be a random bump on the road, but maybe it is a way of shaking up an emotional blockage and allowing good energy to flow and things to start moving in the right direction. I sure hope so!



I recently stumbled upon the term Degrowth, and felt inclined to look further into it. Especially since I could sense that the term was positively charged, and thereby by definiton in opposition to the prevailing view on growth as something positively progressive.


The term degrowth has its origin in the French word Décroissance, and was introduced at the first Degrowth conference in Paris in 2008 – which has been followed by an international degrowth conference in Europe every second year promoted by the network Research & Degrowth. The Research & Degrowth network defines sustainable degrowth as:

a downscaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions and equity on the planet. It calls for a future where societies live within their ecological means, with open, localized economies and resources more equally distributed through new forms of democratic institutions. Such societies will no longer have to “grow or die.”

Furthermore, the network emphasises that a degrowth society will focus on sufficiency rather than efficiency, and that innovation will be dedicated to new social and technical arrangements that will enable us to live convivially and frugally. The degrowth movement is generally critical of life-styles based on the “work more, earn more, sell more and buy more”-dogma of industrialised countries; rather it promotes the liberating qualities of voluntary simplicity and the reduction of individual consumption, and is, not surprisingly, inspired by Thoreau’s “Walden; or Life in the Woods” among other anti-materialistic, simplicity-promoting socio-ecological literature (DeMaria et al. What is Degrowth? From an Activist Slogan to a Social Movement. Environmental Values 22: 191–215. The White Horse Press. 2013: p. 195-197).

The major idea of the degrowth movement is that if less time is spent on formal work and consumption, more time can be dedicated to other fulfilling activities – and that such a shift potentially will be less environmentally harmful (Ibid: p. 202).  Degrowth does not mean stagnation or inactivity. It does not imply doing nothing. Rather, it is dynamic, in “reverse engineering” kind of way. As the above quote demonstrates, the idea of degrowth is that by limiting “formal” work and consumption, more time will be left for other fulfilling activities. Degrowth, in other words, involves a conscious choice to eradicate the 9-5 work-reality of the majority of people in industrialised countries, in order to make time and mental surplus for physically, socially and intellectually rewarding doings. Limiting expenses and consumption is a way to make this scenario possible. In my analysis of the degrowth movement, it includes a showdown of the assumption that human beings are what they work with, i.e. for example a teacher, a merchant, a doctor, or a waiter. A fulfilling life contains more than us limiting ourselves to our societal function. Or, as it is beautifully put in the book Degrowth – A Vocabulary for a new Era from 2015:

“In other words, voluntary simplicity involves embracing a minimal “sufficient” material standard of living, in exchange for more time and freedom to pursue other life goals, such as community or social engagements, more time with family, artistic or intellectual projects, home-based production, more fulfilling employment, political participation, spiritual exploration, relaxation, pleasure-seeking, and so on – none of which need to rely on money, or much money.”
(D’Alisa, Giacomo, Demaria, Frederico and Kallis, Giorgos (Ed.) (2015). Degrowth – A Vocabulary for a new Era. London and New York: Routledge: p. 133)

What is aesthetic sustainability?

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed about aesthetic sustainability by Sustain Daily as a part of their crowdfunding campaign for their magazine Sustain Yearly. I am very pleased that the magazine is now a reality – you can order it here

The full interview can be seen here – hope you will enjoy!

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Living to the fullest, like a child

Recently I have re-read German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Thus spoke Zarathustra” – and I have nodded and smiled, and even laughed on several occasions. What a book! What a celebration of living to the fullest, and of living courageously.

In the book Nietzsche unfolds an existentialist development theory, similar to e.g. French Philosopher Simone de Beauvoir’s idea of human development going from the Subman to the Adventurer and the Nihilist, until finally to genuine freedom, Jean Paul Sartre’s division between living in bad faith and in good faith, and Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s investigation on living authentically, which holds the metamorphoses from the Philistine to the Aesthete, and from the Ethicist to the Religious man. In Nietzsche’s universe the human development steps are the following: the Camel, the Lion and the Child.

Most of us live as camels our entire lives; we carry our weight, and do what we are supposed to do without asking any questions. The camel is unfree, as he is governed by “should do’s”, traditions and norms of society as well as other people’s expectations. The camel accepts the weight that others put on his shoulders and doesn’t question the prevailing values. But the dominating values of the culture and time era he is a part of are not necessarily his values. And hence, living according to them, just because that’s what you do, makes him an unauthentic being.
The camel that wakes up and starts searching for true meaning and other ways of life, becomes a lion. The lion seeks freedom above everything else. He wants to break free from obligations, moral codes and duty. Everything feels false to him; he discovers that what he used to think of as being true and good or the right way to live is nothing but what others have “forced” him to believe. And he realises that he is free to break loose from expectations, traditions and obligations – and thus he starts breaking down assumptions. But the problem with the lion’s freedom is that it is negative. It is in it’s core a freedom to say “no”; no to what others impose on him, no to society’s norms, no to traditions – but there is no alternative to the lion’s shattered chains. The lion must learn how to live for himself and to create his own reality in order to be truly free. His freedom must be directed towards something – because just saying “no” to everything is not the equivalent to being free (which by the way also characterises both Simone de Beauvoir’s Adventurer and Søren Kierkegaard’s Aesthete; they turn away from everything, say “no” to everything, but are left with an empty existence).
In order to overcome emptiness and create his own meaning, the lion must become childlike. The child is characterised by being creative, playful and positive, and is led by the sacred “yes”. He doesn’t seek other’s approval, but is able to engage in pure creation, and thus in the creation of his own reality and virtue.
“But say, my brothers, what can the child do that even the lion could not do? Why must the preying lion still become a child? The child is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelled wheel, a first movement, a sacred “Yes.” For the game of creation, my brothers, a sacred “Yes” is needed: the spirit now wills his own will, and he who had been lost to the world now conquers his own world.” (Thus Spoke Zarathustra)

What I particularly love about Nietzsche’s description of human advancement towards authentic, free living is that living to the fullest is symbolised by the child. Not by strength or seriousness or physical superiority, but by being childlike or living like a child. Why? Because being truly free and living to the fullest involves being playful, creative, and saying “yes” to opportunities and engaging mindfully or without disruptions in whatever you are doing. Just like a child that is engaged in playing. The child in Nietzsche’s philosophy is passionate and courageous. He embraces possibilities and takes chances.

The link between authentic living and being childlike makes really good sense to me. When I wrote by book Aesthetic Sustainability – Product Design and Sustainable Usage, I spend a period of my research time on a seemingly strange investigation. I looked into my oldest son, who at the time was 8 years old, and his treasures. My son has lots of treasures; things he cherishes and stores away in colourful, beautifully decorated boxes, and time and again looks at and touches.
“The emotional bond between my son and his treasures – his magical things – is strong. Each object represents something of great significance, and he uses them to make sense of the eight years he has been alive. Each might represent people he loves or places he has visited, but mostly they represent himself: his inner fantasy world, his way of thinking, and the games he plays. In other words, the objects are the essence of those moments of play when he reaches a flow state, forgetting about himself and becoming one with the act of playing, simply existing in the here-and-now, at peace with his surroundings.
Common to all the things – even the shiny, colourful, newly acquired – stored in my son’s boxes and chests is the fact that they have no economic value: either they did not cost anything, or they were very cheap, further, they have not necessarily been made from sustainable materials. Some of them, like the feather, are even coming apart. Their value, then, cannot be reduced to dollar and cents or to their material durability. Their value is rather of an emotional and aesthetic ilk.” (Aesthetic Sustainability – Product Design and Sustainable Usage, Chapter 5: The Magical Thing)

A couple of of my son’s cherished treasures.

As the above quote shows, I discovered that the beautiful state of flow that children are so good at reaching when they play, was in particular what my son celebrates when cherishing his treasures. And furthermore, that his collection of treasures are far from a materialistic celebration of the new and shiny. Rather, the collection represents moments of coherence, presence and pure satisfaction in his life. They are a manifestation of his most passionate, mindful moments.