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The road to happiness

Dec 19, 2013
By Ilze Powell

The road to happiness
PARADISE: Berlin is a city of beautiful facades and affordable rent.

BERLIN - Almost all men and women get up every morning and go through their days, taking their coffee, smiling at the occasional passers-by, switching on their computers, gossiping with co-workers, phoning friends and otherwise seeking what we generally recognize with such words as happiness, satisfaction or fulfillment. And I think most will agree that the road to these virtues can be equally degrading or rewarding. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a city where all the good entered easily, while the bad had seemingly lost their admission ticket!

For four months now, I’ve been walking the streets of Berlin, dreamily recalling Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. And not just because it’s always been my favorite book, but because with every next day this city is beginning to resemble his idea of our future more and more.

While the rest of the EU is still undergoing recession, fighting unemployment and political scandals and harboring revolutionary refugees, this city feels like a social and economic sanctuary for – well, I wish I could say anyone.
Berlin offers buildings with Parisian-like facades and rental prices close to those in Riga. Its labor market is generally open and well-paid to those willing to learn German and earn a degree.

How it is possible that anyone, at any time of the day can find parking in this city – many times even for free – is an unsolved mystery. With its ethnic and cultural plentitude you can find affordable just about anything; most services are English-accessible and many department stores discount high-street brands for middle class customers.
The ever-growing social communities provide scheduled party calendars casually emailed to you on Sunday nights so you don’t even need to seek activities or people, just choose and go. The window painters and repair guys self-appoint themselves to come and fix your residence for the upcoming winter snows.

When I first arrived, my only question was: how come half the world hasn’t moved here yet?
Then one day, while sitting in a cafeteria, I heard a man at the next table utter a loud and furious, ‘Oh, Gott!’
Turning my head, I realized that the only object of his annoyance was a small white egg that had refused to crack. The inevitable question arose: what’s better – to have regular problems, slowly zoning out the trivial stuff, or live in an immaculately maintained place where everything is bio clean, sterile and un-individually prearranged to such detail that a disobedient egg might seem like a disturbance?

Nietzsche once said that “you need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.” Most Germans would probably approach this quote with their usual scrutiny and meticulous theoretical analysis, but for me it means people like Leonardo da Vinci and Antoni Gaudi, who saw the need for a similar dancing star. Could they have developed their inspiration in today’s perfectly coordinated Berlin?

I guess the question of where to find those things dear to our souls will eternally remain. And while some people will always thrive in Greek-Italian style social systems, looking around each corner in search for the next thrill of the day, others will prefer to know that their world will unchangeably function just the same in the early morning of January 1, bringing them their next dosage of a popular pleasure-drug called ‘salary.’

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