Hi, Martyna! Hristos voskrese!
I am back from my spanish trip! We basically spent 5 days eating and drinking and visiting medieval castilian villages! We went to a village were the castillian go to eat lamb, to a town where they eat only little piglets, to a city which specialises in the small bites late at night with a glass of sangria, and so on, and so on! seafoods, fishes, jamones, chorizos, eggs, potatoes and desserts - each very special and exquisite! and wine, wine, wine with sprite, sidra and melted chocolate!
Comparing my two holidays and people I met there was interesting though! To me it seems that Western Europe is altogether too material for my taste. In Britain people think only about getting a good job, have not much idea about enjoyment other than buying or consuming in quantity, or releasing their energy in a friday night drunken revelry (again because alcohol has to be acquired in increasing quantity to bring satisfaction!). [Forgive my intentional reductionism here, it is necessary to achieve punch of the prose!] In the south - Belgium, France, Spain is all very sophisticated about food and wines and enjoying life, about fine regional traditions to amuse you and chat about, but again to me it feels that every conversation is too materially oriented, no spirituality (not in the religious sense but "duhovnost"), no romanticism, nobody ponders on the human condition or the make of the surround, noone has crazy emotions and difficult passions. they did in the novels from the XIX century but not anymore.
Somehow the feeling of inferiority to the white man (the westerner) has become integral part of us. We are intimidated by their self-confidence that we cannot match. We contemplate our underachievements in prosperity, our history of being held back by "barbarians" (tartars or ottomans or communist russians, ...), our present situation of trying to be in everything like them hoping that thus we will finally earn their (and thus - our own) respect.
I have some feeling that the spiritual energy is all concentrated in Eastern Europe! Most of us dont see it and appreciate it, fixating on the material and political problems (at least in Bulgaria, in Poland you are supposed to be better off?) but I think the cultural future, the evolution of duhovnost, should belong to those young people that graduate our universities. My week in Poland further confirmed that, with all these "kultur-managers" from various slavic countries communicating together in german, with your dreams and endeavours in film-making, the romantic stories about missed loves, the news about polish marxists, your housemate's fascination with romanian culture, etc, etc.
Its exactly because of the pervasive feeling that ours is not enough, that what we have is not satisfactory. So we are eager to look further, to appreciate cultures or to our history or to philosophy or to...
For west-europeans theirs is enough, they are satisfied to find their little place in the system without too many revolutions, and to be not too happy or too unhappy for ever after.
...an email from my previous scotish housemate, a chemist, about a 'job opportunity' at the company he works in now, GlaxoSmithKline:
"you would need to shave, its good to apply before your finished, apply anyway and let them persuade you you need a job, you'll be rich
Job Title: Mathematical Modeler, Brain Biology
Position: Full-Time Regular
Location: Harlow, Southeast England
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a world leading research-based pharmaceutical company with a mission to improve the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer. GSK has over 100,000 employees worldwide and over 16,000 in R&D. GSK R&D is based at 24 sites in seven countries. The company has a leading position in genomics/genetics and new drug discovery technologies.
We are looking for those rare individuals who can successfully integrate sophisticated mathematics with complex biology and drive the resulting models to utility..."
He is worried about my good future in a typically british circumstances but I have already decided.
Next year I will be getting no job. I will be going back to Eastern Europe. I already have more money than I have ever thought possible - in return for 3 years of my youth.
I am going back home in the East, I remember that I too had passions when I was still there. I dont remember what they were anymore, my only dream now is to be with creative people, people that will challenge my senses. I am sure that passions will return then.
I didnt know what I want to do with my life, since up to a few months ago my lifelong desire to be part of Science gradually suffocated in the mundane of practical scientific life. Now, after my visit to you, I finally have some new, still vague, desire - I want to be feeling with my skin the warmth of this unrecognised east-european cultural spring. I dont know yet how I could intertwine my own living and spirit with it, but I will be thinking on that!
I know it is naive, but isnt it the lack of naive dreams exactly what I complain against here?
In Eastern Europe we all share the dream of that Paris, ах, Париж, but it is no more there in the french Paris. Instead, because of our imagination it is preserved in our east-european hearts. It will bring our very own Parisian spring!
The Germans are quite smart, they seem to finance so many art projects to the east, they are tapping into the source. Now these kultur-managers too. That night was so surprising for me, to see sixteen people in that bar Crvena Zvezda (serbian)/Czerwiena Gwiazda (polish) - polish, czech, slovak, ukrainian, russian, bulgarian, serbian, slovenian - all chatting most naturally in Deutch, the language of their mortal enemies for the past 1500 years (Drang nach Osten, Teutonic order, untermensch and all that). At first looked a bit like assimilation. But it is good, that night with my polylinguistic help we reached understanding in slavic, for "radostne, zadovol'ne, to est shtastlivje...! Bratiya slavyani...! - Niema bratiya tut - sestre! Sestre slavyanke!" (they were all girls) "Nazdrowie, sestre, Nazdravije, za slovensko razumewanie!" :) The romanian and albanian guys felt a bit isolated though. :)
One just has to look at the prominent role that the theatres and the bookshops, even those café-bookshop-librarettes, take in the polish or czech city life! (In Bulgaria somewhat less so because of the shorter cultural tradition under the Turks and the worse economic situation today.) We take these things for granted however, and believe they exist like that in all european countries. We cannot believe that we might be better in something.
However I have not forgotten my Oriental wishes yet. I still want to learn arabic properly and go to the Levant, because I feel that all this might be even stronger in the Levantine countries. Despite or because of their so heavy political, social and religious problems.
Hey, I loved the music you copied for me! (the cat in a bag!) I already downloaded the other two albums of Kapela ze wsi Warszawa (apparently translated in english as Warsaw Village Band)! It really relates in my mind with some image of the forest slavs of the north, living in green expanses of nature (your village of Bielsko-Biala? derelict jewish cemeteries are very appropriate ;)), all the devoiki with flower-ventzi on their heads... :) (heh, I am sure it is quite wrong!)
The fact that the singing is in semi-uncomprehendable polish voices makes for even greater impact! I am attaching one song called "Noon at Ural" that will hopefully portray the effect to you! (the author is actually from Vojvodina, beyond the Danube)
uff, you are probably quite tired by now reading all this. the reason i got so spacious is i will also publish it as essay on my donkey letters page.
Bye, Kiss, and Hug,
PS: Could you write a comment for me on HC? I got my passport and soon I will be contacting people in US to stay with.
PPS: pass warmest feelings to Marta, Kasja and Dagna!
Warszawa, Valladolid, Nottingham,
An email by Carlos:
Just some thoughts about your thoughts...
I think you are wrong in catalogin people on their cultural background, and
say that western european are all superficial. Apart from what you may think
about me, I am sure there are many Spanish, French and Belgium people that
are not superficial, and many Polish, Ukranian, Bulgarian, Servian and
Russian people that are superficial. I advice you to focus more on the
persons, as individuals.
I understand that you feel closer to eastern europeans and that you feel
communication with them much easier than with westerners. That is normal,
and it is a good opportunity to share things with them, as the political
changes on your countries, and the subsequents changes in your societies is
paralell, and you can do many good things together.
I think your blood boils with romanticism and youth. That is good, but
please don´t fall into the neurosis. I must remember you that 90% of
romantics and philosophers of the last centuries commited suicide. You have
to look for your own dreams, not for the dreams written by romantic minds
other than yours, they were looking for their own dreams, and they are for
sure not going to be the same as yours.
I find very unfair what you say about selling your body to money in the last
3 years. I think you underestimate how good you are at what you do. You are
an impressively intelligent guy. What you have done is good. It is not for
money, it is for science and for your development. If you don´t appreciate
that you have not learnt anything. You have had an opportunity that not many
people have and you should be thankful to god or alah or whatever for it.
One more point. To exteriorise your emotions to the limit is not always
good. You can loose perspective of reality and fall into idealisation and
overreaction. Everything is good with a balance.
Nottingham & Valladolid,
A reply by Nikola:
> I think you are wrong in catalogin people on their cultural background, and
> say that western european are all superficial. Apart from what you may think
> about me, I am sure there are many Spanish, French and Belgium people that
> are not superficial, and many Polish, Ukranian, Bulgarian, Servian and
> Russian people that are superficial. I advice you to focus more on the
> persons, as individuals.
Of course I am wrong, but try to put that in three sentences and keep the prose tight and energetic?
I am pointing to some comparison of (subjectively mine) averages between civilisations. You might argument that one shouldnt do such dodgy comparisons, but that is precisely the PC "reasonableness" I revolt against!
Of course, there are many superficial EE people! For example the romanians&bulgarians we saw working and begging in Spain.
> I find very unfair what you say about selling your body to money in the last
> 3 years. I think you underestimate how good you are at what you do. You are
> an impressively intelligent guy. What you have done is good. It is not for
> money, it is for science and for your development. If you don´t appreciate
> that you have not learnt anything. You have had an opportunity that not many
> people have and you should be thankful to god or alah or whatever for it.
Yes, I feel guilty about letting down all who invested in me, professors and so on. And most of all - to disappoint my father. If he hadn't passed away, taking such step would have been immensely more difficult for me!
But I realise ever more strongly my happiness doesn't lie in this way of life. Let's see if something comes out from another way. They say one passes from being young to old, when he stops fighting for the impossible happiness and contends to the compromises that life offers. Hopefully I will also find a way to be utilising my "scientific experience".
> One more point. To exteriorise your emotions to the limit is not always
> good. You can loose perspective of reality and fall into idealisation and
> overreaction. Everything is good with a balance.
Hmm, I like doing that, for example it makes for challenging and provocative essays. :)
I realised it is going to be offensive to British, Spanish, etc. but then it was my little revenge for all your derogatory jokes about Bulgarians and Romanians in Spain.
In fact, I will try to soften it a bit now, after you've read it. :-p [the letter is edited]
I am making a dinner tonight for that german guy coming from hospitality club. Would you like to come? Maybe he will become your new best friend after Murat went back to Turkey? ;)
Its always better to discuss these things over a glass of rakiia/orujo ;)
I am cooking musaka.
PS: Please, also note that I wrote it initially to a polish person. This letter is in the unmentioned context of a very widespread feeling of our own inferiority compared with the "white man" (the westerner, the flag of civilisation). In it I am trying to point that we shouldn't throw out completely everything own and try to be like the westerners, European or American, as we are doing in the moment in hope to get their respect. That there are some things in which we are better than them and should work to promote those instead. This is still a very minority view.
Nottingham & EEurope,