Just a Perfect Day

Posted: November 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Life & Travels, Thoughts | 1 Comment »

I just ordered a good tasty Starbucks size coffee in a hipster cafe somewhere in a modern Damascus district. As I took the first sip and the first centimeter of chocolaty foam vanished down my throat a little slogan appeared inside the cup, it said “just a perfect day”. Made me think, “yeah, what is a perfect day for me now?”, it’s a good place to reflect about the inner changes that this journey has brought about. First of all I’m a child and a slave of my home culture, I cannot deny it and I wonder if this will ever change. I prefer a European style cup of coffee to the Turkish and Arabic tea or whatever it might be and so I always end up searching for some piece of home in any place I go, even if it comes with quite a massive price tag. But traveling is so much about sensing other vibes and tastes, to drink at the fountains of different cultures, and walking is one of the most intense forms of doing so. So what have the cultures taught me that I wandered through, how much have they taught me to redefine what “a perfect day” is.

The first change about living as a nomad is that the event horizon shifts so much closer and life becomes really just about the current day or the next three days but not much more. Any plans that try to control more than a few hours just dissolve into a kinda cloud of uncertainty. To be realistic, this change is not permanent and will probably reverse itself once I’m settled again but it’s the crucial environment for a true traveler to learn the lessons cultures have to offer. The heart begins to beat in a different rhythm, which is the rhythm of the people one is living with. Suddenly there’s a freedom to reflect and step closer to oneself. Because if you are genuinely open to listen, the countless cultural differences just teach about all your quirks and strengths that were so well accustomed to your home and have blended in so well that your true character has no problem hiding. We all wear masks… So as a pilgrim I stepped into a life style that opened a Pandora box of the deepest self reflection I’ve ever faced. Don’t mistake freedom to reflect with freedom though. I’ve said already before that I did not find freedom in living “free”. More so it’s a burden. It’s no secret that if you step closer to yourself, first, all you find is ruins. Crystal and I call it the pain of existence, or simply despair (eternally thankful for Kierkegaard). Thus, being now only 12 walking days away from Jerusalem, I cannot say it will be a triumphal entry, more so an ascent to Golgotha, just as traditionally a Jerusalem pilgrimage ends at the grave church of Christ it is more in the spirit of death than of life. Until now it’s been an incredibly hard journey, walking so far is only an external analogy of the true hardship my soul is going through. If you know about my sickness at the beginning of this year and then the baby, I can tell you this has only been the beginning. So to tell you what now a perfect day is, I would say it’s a day where I feel I have faced this pain of existence and not avoided it. And this is how the pilgrimage has been helpful, at home I avoid myself and the means to do so have been sanctioned by our culture. Be it music, movies, friends, work or whatever that makes up the fabric of the “west” it’s hard to recognize how I hide in it and harder to avoid it.

The first part of the walk, from Zurich to Istanbul, was a slow dismantling of false hopes that I put into my future and possible vocation. I started off hoping to impress myself with this walk and others. The first great confrontation with myself came in the mountains of Croatia where I decided to abandon those ideas and to be completely plan less. Those who know me know how stubbornly goal orientated I am and how much of my life fuel exists of having something to achieve. To decisively abandon the hope to find meaning in a “purpose driven life”, in the way we westerners understand this phrase, was also my first break with protestantism and the way I understood religion all my life. A time of drifting freely began, wherever the wind would take me. Surprisingly it took me back home for one and a half years. It was and utterly hard time full of yearning for Jerusalem, or more for what this place had become a symbol for. The way led into ever stronger depression that hasn’t loosened it’s grip even until now. It’s deep under the hood so most people who meet me do not see it. I use the word depression because you might be able to relate to this word better than despair but the latter is what this is really about. I will spend more time to reflect deeper on the events that have caused the current state of my soul because I feel I cannot yet see clearly the whole path behind me. What is especially interesting are the specific cultural challenges that have continuously pushed me to face myself…

This post is left inconclusive intentionally since I have not made it to Jerusalem yet. I wanted to let you in on my state, and Chrystal’s experiences is similar, as we walk the final part of this pilgrimage. Remember us in your thoughts and prayers.

To be continued…


The Heart

Posted: February 4th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Thoughts | No Comments »

I just found on one of my favourite blogs following quote:

The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. But there too is God, the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasuries of grace—all things are there. (St. Macarius, H.43.7)

The same quote was given to me by one of the monks who taught me many things about Orthodoxy on Mount Athos. It’s poetic and contains a deep truth. I do not consider to understand it but it expresses something I’m growing increasingly aware of. The heart is the vastest space we can find. It contains all the hope and fear, happiness and pain. Interested to find out what a pilgrimage is about, the question always returns to the journey of the heart. What does it mean when one goes “to find myself”? Isn’t it when we try to use the outer journey to force ourselves into an inner one? The forcing means that we try to avoid it. For my part, I try to avoid it by all possible means, it’s scary to face myself. I always though all is calm inside and the distractions of life keep me from becoming quiet but it turns out to be opposite: there are dragons, lions, poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. It’s scary to go there. It turns out that I try to find things to distract myself with in order that I do not have to face those dangerous toils of my heart and that the true mountains to climb lie there.


Sickness unto Death?

Posted: January 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Switzerland, Thoughts | 3 Comments »

Unto death? Not really, but if one has something that bothers the body one begins to wonder if it might me lethal.

Three weeks ago I astonishingly observed that a tingling, which started a few days beforehand, had grown into somewhat alarming numbness in feet and hands. The most alarming thing for me was that every day I had less strength in my muscles, starting from the legs but slowly taking over the whole body. I went to the doctor and she had no idea what it was, then I went to the hospital and they had to test me for a whole day to find out what I might have. They took water from my spine which should not hurt at all, but the lady seemed to do it for the first time and I was screaming and moaning like never before because she kept hitting some nerves and muscles inside my spine. At least the water gave them a hint what caused this strange symptoms. They guessed that I had something called Guillain-Barr syndrome (German) which was caused by a virus. They sent me home and told me to return if it got any worse and gave me some painkillers.

The next morning I woke up and realized that my face also started to get lame. It became hard for me to move the right side of the face. A bit alarmed, I called the hospital again, whereupon they invited me to return immediately. There some neurology (nerves) experts examined me again and decided that it would be better for me to stay in the hospital and begin with the treatment immediately. I found out that they did not treat me earlier because the medicine is very expensive and can give all kinds of side effects. The problem with the sickness is that it can rapidly advance and befall the muscles of the lungs and for that affect the breathing. So there I was a few hours later in the intensive care station with all kinds of surveillance equipment on my body and needles feeding treatments directly into the blood.

Finally I had some time to reflect of what was going on. I was loosing control over my body, thanks God I could still walk, but did not know for sure what I had and where it was going to lead. For some reason I felt serene and at peace. I remembered the last stroll I took outside, it was a sunny day and as I walked I played with the idea that it might be the last one for a while or for good, and I gave thanks to God for walking. It would be the last stroll for almost two weeks.

The medicine I received were Immunoglobulins, extracted from blood of other people, they strengthen the immune system and are a well known cure for the complications I’ve had. What gave me troubles were the the side effects of the medicine. I was really sick, had to throw up and couldn’t sleep. The treatment took five days, a few hours each. I dreaded it because now my tormentor was not the disease but the cure. After five days it was over though, and to my relieve the lameness stopped progressing. The doctors announced that I’m progressing positively but have to stay another three to four days. Therapy started and I got lots of visits from my friends. Chrystal stayed close to me, the troubles brought us to places of despair and helplessness which we never experienced together before. It brought us closer and gave us more respect for each other because we realized how deep our souls can resonate when plunged into a situation of despair.

Now looking back I thank God for his mercy. One fourth of the people with Guillain-Barre is struck so severely that they loose control over breathing, up to four percent dies. I probably will regain almost 100% of my strength but might never regain the full measure of endurance I had before.

Thank you for your concerns and prayers during that time and even now.


A Year Ago…

Posted: August 12th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Life & Travels, Route, Thoughts | 1 Comment »

One year ago I started my pilgrimage. It was an exciting day for me (see this post http://www.lukebuehler.com/?p=38). During that time I often wondered where this journey would take me. What God would do in my heart. Somehow I felt that there would be some detours until I would reach my goal, but what has actually happened in the last year, has far exceeded my guesses. From that day where I did my first step out of the home of my parents to start walking, I often dreamed about how it would be to reach Jerusalem. Over time it became more and more a symbol, the determination to reach the actual city didn’t become any weaker, but it found a spiritual companion that empowered it even more. After a year I’m still half way, I stopped in Istanbul, never crossed the Bosporus to Asia. If cities have a symbolic meaning for me (and they do), then Istanbul is the life in the middle, since the dawn of history caught between the interests of the west and orient. Its the city of both continents and has thus two hearts: The heart of Athens which is cradle of our western civilization, and the heart of Jerusalem, our spiritual mother. I for my part long more for Jerusalem than for Athens and interestingly the reality of my pilgrimage reflects that. I had a good offer from someone I met during my trip, to work in Athens and stay there for the winter. I could have had an apartment there and made some money with which I could have finished my trip, but I felt like that it was not right for me to do this detour and I declined. Only to come back to Switzerland one month later from Istanbul? Yes. Where the pilgrimage of heart and body will lead I do not know, but one day I will make my home in Jerusalem. Hope with me.


Recap of a Discussion

Posted: August 5th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Thoughts | 1 Comment »

Once a week we meet to discuss things of our hearts, to state questions not answers. Last time it was deep and it reflected some of the ideas I want to express here. Therefore I want to give here a recap. By the way this is our website: http://dankrusi.com/thefellowship/

The topic was as follows: Materialism, is this our new religion? As a discussion starter we stated that the problem of consuming is only hard to see in the case where it hurts others and are ignorant of it. Where either the consumer or the seller directly suffers under it, it is not hard to show why one shouldn’t engage in such a trade. The problem is if we do wrong when we act as a consumer but do know know the full consequences if it. We read a quote of a ancient myth that Plato uses in The Republic: The Ring of Gyges. It’s the idea of having a means to escape the consequences of our acts of injustice (Tolkien took up on this idea in the Lord of the Rings). The difficulty is now that we willingly choose to be ignorant of our acts of injustice, which is especially easy in materialism because the problems are outsourced in a global economy to places where we’ll never hear what our Nike shoes do to the factory workers. To overcome this issue takes a lot of effort on our side to educate ourselves what effects our western life style has on the whole world. Then having that knowledge to feel actually responsible and act upon it is the hard part. There are two main spectra, one where we are responsible as an individual guided by our moral compass and one where we are responsible as a citizen in society, responsible for our laws to reflect our convictions. It starts with the first one resulting in a certain lifestyle, then it moves on to our social responsibility. Last night we primarily focused on the lifestyle. I think looking at this it becomes quickly evident that we long for practicalities. Examples we can follow. So we shared some of our ideas. Someone said its important to start with reflecting on actions we do. Thinking first. The someone said he wishes he could take more time to just be quiet and think, but that our fast paced industrial lives leave no room for that. Quickly we realized that we all regularly attempt to take more time to be alone and think but that it quickly fails due to other priorities that dominate such “none sense”. If we have a ten minute slot before bed time we quickly fill it with a YouTube clip or something similar. I threw a realization into the pot I had a week ago or so, that we work long days with soul consuming jobs to earn lots of money with which we finance our expensive free time in which we try again to make up for our meaning less time at work. During our 20 minute lunch time we have to buy overpriced fast food wrapped in ridiculous amounts of plastic, just because we do not have the time to prepare real food. There are many more examples that quickly show bountiful evidence of a senseless lifestyle that we are often guilty of. Returning to the question, how we should live then, we felt the necessity to reflect more on what consequences our western lives have. It’s easy to say we should just all live in the mountains but how do we act as citizens of the centers of civilization, namely the city.

Next time we’ll discuss more what it means to acquire a reflective lifestyle and how we should relate to the issue of social justice. I’m looking forward to it.


Remnants of Humanity

Posted: July 20th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Poems, Thoughts | Tags: | 1 Comment »

I want to start this discussion with a poem I wrote the last two days. It expresses the pessimistic view I want to take at the beginning of the journey so that we can long for the promised land of hope.

Remnants of Humanity

Humanity was beautiful and barren.
An inner beauty the shone brighter than the sun,
and it came from the barrenness of her desires.
Through an adulterous act she gave birth to a child all in her image,
but the beauty was of her body and not of her soul.
Humanity named her Philosophy.

From the sons of god to the sons of men everyone longed after the grown child.
And she gave them everything;
war and peace,
the knowledge of good and evil,
and many other important things.

The desires of Philosophy gave birth to another child.
He was bright and proud.
Even more beautiful than his mother
but a heart laden with arrogance.
Philosophy named him Science.

No one knew how much grief he would cause.
In his youth he took the throne from his mother,
raped nature and made her queen.
It was against her will but all authority was given to him.

Both mothers looked at their offspring,
Humanity at Philosophy,
and Philosophy at Science
and they thought of them as bastards.
But after they had wept a smile appeared,
for what mother does not learn from her child?

Humanity now far in years,
looked and saw in Philosophy truth.
Eventually she died of her grief,
having lost everything to Philosophy.
Some remained carrying her name,
but her daughter often disputed if they were worthy of it.

Philosophy having reached the great age of her mother,
looked and saw in Science humanity.
But she died too after her son took the throne.
A sad and lonely death,
unrecognized she rotted away in the gutter.

Science now the age of his mother,
looked and saw nothing.
Everything dissolved into nothing
and having no guidance he put a violent death to himself.

With it came the end to the remnants of humanity.

We’ve come a long way. Looking back to the rise of history we can trace an evolution. How much was it for the better and where was it for the worse? Today we live in the age of science and his children. We are immerged into post-modern civilization and its culture. Surrounded by all the things of the 21st century the question is how will we emerge. The starting point is to view ourselves not as the peak of humanity (in the evolutionary sense), but as the remnant of humanity, understanding that we have come a long way of many mistakes, seeing the whitenesses of history as guides to humility instead of steps to greater self gratification. I mean by that, that we view ourselves as creatures in need of grace. Everything has been tried, has succeeded and failed and everything has once be known. The hope will not be in the discovery of a new solution, a new way how to do things. My hope is in the believe that a long time ago we were made as an icon of God. We have strayed in acquiring the likeness of God and are now lost down a path where we are dependent on grace to find a way back.

Next: In the age of technology, is our trust in information and knowledge eligible? (I would love to have a discussion about that because it is a question I have (of course) no definite answers for)


How Should We Then Live?

Posted: July 11th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Thoughts | 6 Comments »

Even though I haven’t read the book (yet) it’s a question that burns on my heart more than anything. I’d say in the digital age the pace how our environment changes has become far quicker than anything we could ever imagine, almost exponential. For an old man his youth used to be the moral standard. Now we can sometimes look back 5 or 10 years and already feel stretched in our acceptance of what is permissible. It put a huge weight on our generation and the ones to follow. I love to observe the evolution of the internet, especially the social networking aspects of it. Or I’m interested in the movie industry how they push the limits to tingle the bellies of the entertainment gluttons living in the 21st century. There’s so much information, different views on things, songs, papers, magazines, blogs, web sites, emails (ahhh the inbox) it has become hard to filter. Living in 2000+ as a 20 something the questions of theology, meaning in life, and even sometimes survival have almost faded a bit into the background and one question remains: How should we live? How should I live? And I like especially the sentence: How should we then live? I feel like a teenage kid after the teacher has told me something for hours I put up my hand and say provocatively, “so what? What should I do with it?”. All I can say after been to every kind of church, having bought every consumer good (I already have and iPhone 3G), seen many movies, read piles of books, how should I then live?

I believe as pilgrims to the meaning of live this questions has become more pressing than ever. We have left behind the save lands of traditions, where you just do things because thats how they’ve been done for ever. Unfortunately have we embarked on a trip into an open sea on a nutshell, for my part I don’t see land yet. Through our emancipation to total independence, we hold a powerful freedom to do with our time almost anything we want. But just like an investor who has a lot of cash, the first thing he asks is where to invest.

I feel like I’m facing an identity crisis. There’s a lot of meaning in life I know it, but how to connect it to the personal life style? What’s your life style?

I want to explore some of the things people go to find meaning in the next posts and express my thoughts. I feel like we are often just like pilgrims going from one thing to the other hoping to find a home. Consumerism, friendships, activism (green, politics, human rights), mysticism (new age, etc), church, parties, partner…