About Pleasure, Privilege And Purpose - A Bus Ride That Changed My View
Updated: Jul 14, 2022
In the past year I thought a lot about the term “work” and what it means to me. Growing up in Germany I always felt a certain pressure to get a proper job following a reputable career.
This might seem like a luxury problem since in other countries many people simply have to work to survive.
People don’t have a choice to study this or that. People don't get supported by the government if they don't find a job. People can't afford the medical assistance they might need. Instead, they have to go out on the streets and earn some money to feed themselves and their families every day.
However - with this in mind - I also learned once again that nothing is impossible.
Let me tell you about an interesting encounter I recently made on a 2-hour bus journey in Nicaragua…
When I entered the bus, an elderly Nicaraguan man waved at me with a big smile and offered me the seat next to him.
Of course, I accepted. I felt really welcomed by him and we started talking...
To my surprise he spoke better English than I did. In a country where the broad population doesn’t have access to proper English education that is really (!) rare.
So, we talked for a bit and eventually Juan started telling me about his life…
He told me how he grew up in a poor Nicaraguan family and how he wanted to change that.
For that reason, he created his own little space under a tree in his family's garden when he was about ten years old. He cleaned everything, set out a big blanket and put books on it which he got from the local library.
Whenever he had some free time, he sat on the blanket and read those books. They were about Math, History, Biology, English, basically about everything he thought was of importance. By reading those books he educated himself for several years. And it paid off…
Now he works for the embassy of the United States. Apart from that he teaches English classes at a price that local families can afford. He even teaches students for free, when families can't pay at all. For him teaching is not about money, but providing a better education for the very people who need it.
He wants to give something back, he wants to make the world a little bit better...
Which brings me back to my original thought...
For Juan doing all this in Nicaragua was surely a lot harder than if he grew up in a rich Western country where he could have gotten free education.
Well, exactly this made me rethink my own attitude towards work – and life.
Juan managed to live his dream, coming out of poverty in Nicaragua and now working for the embassy and teaching what he loves.
I never had to face poverty. Instead, I’ve been given the privilege to choose what I want to study. The privilege to travel. The privilege to “find myself”.
While I’m doing that, it is easy to follow pleasure, to take the path of least resistance.
I think - if you really want it (!) - saving some money and going traveling is doable for many people that live in Western countries...
But then, once you are on the road, the real "thing" starts to happen - or maybe not.
Suddenly you have a lot of time and freedom. So, you can use it to drink piña coladas at the beach, to party all night long or to surf all day.
Or you can also use it to somehow try to make a difference, to find a purpose - however that might look like.
I don't say one is better than the other, but I gotta say that I’ve never met a truly happy person that only pursues pleasure in life. Likewise the other extreme isn't the Holy Grail either. If you're always looking for a bigger purpose and constantly questioning everything you do, you might forget about the fun and lightheartedness of life, about the possibility of joy in every moment.
So, in the end, I guess it's all about the right balance between pleasure and purpose.
From my experience so far, the biggest purpose I felt was by giving back. Like Juan when he teaches the very children that he once was a part of himself.
One of my favorite artists Xavier Rudd put it in a more poetic way:
When will you learn that the more you take Means the less that you have at the end of the day. Stillness of the mind is so hard to embrace Freedom of the heart is what we crave.
I think only by giving back we get true freedom in our hearts...
By somehow making the lives of other people a tiny bit better. If you smile at a stranger on the street, if you're genuinely interested in the life of another person or if you approach a street vendor with respect and kindness.
That are just a few examples. There are thousand more ways to give back and it looks different for everyone. For now, one way of giving back for me is sharing my thoughts here with you.
Maybe these lines are like the smile of a stranger to you... Maybe it makes your life better by even the smallest fraction... Which would make me in return unbelievably happy.
So, as I said earlier, I never had to face poverty like Juan. Instead, I’ve been given a lot of privileges in my life.
Hence, wouldn’t it be a shame to not make use of these privileges?
Wouldn’t it be a crime to not use them in a way that serves other people? Wouldn’t I regret it one day that I didn’t go and see the world?
To be honest, I don’t know. I’m in my mid-twenties and still figuring life out.
The only thing I know for sure is that I would have never met Juan…
Where I take my inspiration...
If you enjoyed this post, the audio book Revelations by Russel Brand might be indeed a true "revelation" for you! What I love about Russel Brand is that he explores new topics in a really humble and comprehensible manner. He is a big inspiration in my life as well as for my writing. You can listen to it for free if you sign-up as a new customer at audible.
(This is an affiliate link which means: If you make a purchase through it, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.)
No matter where you are in your life - if you feel privileged or not - being grateful for what you have right now is always the first step. You can read more about it here.
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