The Malta Independent 19 April 2019, Friday

The life we are choosing for ourselves

Andrew Azzopardi Wednesday, 20 March 2019, 08:49 Last update: about 30 days ago

From all the things I do, lecturing remains my number one passion.  It is during this time that together with my students I am challenged on so many issues.  The benefit I get from their reflections, insights and opinions are second to none. 

Just to give you an illustration. 

A few weeks ago, we were discussing the environmental challenges this country is facing and amongst other the parking issues at university emerged.  Victoria, one of my students, told me about the value of coming to university using public transport even if she must travel from far (she lives in the south of Malta) and must tackle so much traffic.  She insisted that the good thing about using the public transport (at times it takes her over an hour) is that it gives you time to slip into the day’s events, listen to podcasts and enjoy the music. 

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Now this is a life lesson. 

We seem to have turned our lives into one weighty rush.  Every second needs to be accounted for ‘productively and profitably’.  We must scurry, spring and dash all the time. If most of our lives lack the havoc and the hullabaloo we think that we are wasting our time.  We want to do it all there and then as if the world will gobble us up tomorrow. 

We want to get our PhDs by 25, have our own 400k apartment or townhouse by 26 (even if the loans would tantamount to hundreds if not thousands of euros a month) and achieve all our career aspirations by 27.

We want to travel every two months and obviously need to work our socks off to get the funds to do that.

We want to wear designer clothes and get ourselves bags that ring to the tone of 2k. 

We want a top range car, as being seen with our father’s Ibiza might dent our status (another word for ego).

We want the high-end computer, iPhone and if possible, our underwear needs to be of the Calvin Klein type, just in case when we bend over our boxers show, and the list could go on. 

I am no bigot and am one of those who believes that it is great to have money, estate and resources.  It is lovely to be ambitious and to aspire to be better at what we are.  But we are overdoing it. 

But I think as we transform into a god-less and hedonistic society we need something to revere and probably, ‘our selves’ becomes the next thing in line. 

It looks to me like we are getting ourselves in a conundrum. 

We are starting to lose the pleasure of life, the plainness and straightforwardness. 

‘Simple’ is starting to mean bad, wicked, lazy.  This is untrue, unfair and unjust, on ourselves.  We need to match this.  The joys of life are not necessarily outside of us but can easily be found within.  Happiness is about connecting with self and others. 

But maybe everything starts to come into perspective as age starts kicking-in.  You start hearing of people around you, your age, some even younger who are collapsing like logs, some with heart attacks others nursing serious medical conditions.  The sad thing is that you start going to funerals of people whom you would have considered your peers. 

In today’s world, yes, I know this sounds untypical nostalgic from my end, the objective to be happy seem to have become secondary.  It is now about being prosperous, about ‘quality of life’ or ‘standard of living’ which is far from what happiness is about. 

I suppose gladness is walking the dog, mentoring one’s pets and watering the plants (don’t overdo it with the succulent, please). 

It is about finding the time to talk and argue sports, politics and the weather with your family. It is also making time to appreciate the light as it bounces off the beautiful buildings we have in our towns and villages or as we walk to the square to buy pastizzi and saying hello to people you might not necessarily know. 

Contentment is going to the capital, getting a lungo and sipping it at the rate of 1 drop every 20 minutes as you watch mums and dads struggling with their kids (and trying to look normal), an old woman maneuvering her trolley and a lawyer pompously walking Strada Rjali as if La Valette was his uncle. 

Joy is about not feeling guilty as you watch a sunrise or sunset and you sip a glass of wine. 

It is about getting yourself a brunch near the sea, or just going for a nice walk to clarify your thoughts.

It is about binging on your favourite Netflix series or just letting loose on your guitar as you strum, ‘we all live in the yellow submarine’ by The Beetles. 

Delight is about watching the Formula 1 and a football game right after each other and not feeling bad about it (yes even if Hamilton comes in second).

I know this sounds as if the next thing I will be recommending is sessions of mindfulness or yoga. 

For some maybe those work as well. 

But what I’m after is the proverbial ‘sleep-work-recreation’ balance and an equilibrium will be created.  I am commending quality and quantity time with our children, friends and family members.  It seems so much cliché, but our time here is really clocking fast.  That is why I believe that we need to fill our time with the gifts that life throws at you.  All of us are guaranteed our share of challenges and pain.  We really need to make sure that serenity is something we savour. 

We have turned our society into one that has left us exasperated – it is slowly but surely turning us into a soulless community.  We have been curdled into machines and what matters is that we produce at the impresarios’ contentment.  We used to laugh at Charles Chaplin’s infamous factory scene in his film ‘Modern Times’.  We are behaving the same.  We are succumbing to the pressure of others and we risk George Orwell’s; “Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”  

We have turned our lives into a production line and we simply play to the tune of the Big Brother.

Incorrect.  

It’s now our turn to take the bull by the horns and make our choices. 

What I recommend is that as much as your existence permits, your picks in life would be those of being bright and breezy - all else is secondary. 

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