Thought #6 - What is relative for you?


Uganda starting with an impact, as after twelve hours in the bus, mental and physical tiredness we faced a conflict of expectations. Where we should stay for the night was precarious and different from what was agreed. Not contributing to the aspiration of only washing ourselves and eat, we had to take a real cold shower due to a leakage. Worth reminding that cold water is usual to us, but this one was almost liquid ice…


With the realities we have met it seems quite ridiculous to think of complaining about it with so many privileges we have. But exactly in these contexts lives a thought I’ve made many times.


When we arrive in the world (mom, thanks again!) we have reference of nothing, not even good or bad, beautiful or ugly, odoriferous or smelly. Of course these concepts are created by us, the glorious human race in the modern society. Therefore, since childhood the external factors are responsible for creating the biggest part of this consciousness in our mind, how we grow up, the environment we live, what we have access to, what we listen, read and see. Mainly during the first years. Although I believe there is an internal essence that guides our liking and personality, the influence of these factors is gigantically decisive.


My point here is that with the relativity created we condition what comfort means for us, what looks safe, what is minimally accepted and what is fair. I came with a self commitment to detach as much as I can to all in this journey, but my unique patterns frequently try to dictate my harmony. I mean unique as in their completeness they are absolutely personal and non-transferable…


Even doing my best in these moments of going from one country to another, the feeling of uncertainty, insecurity, unexpected and “tired of stupidity” flourish together. Obviously all of them create a minimum expectation for every detail and associated to exhaustion promote sensibility… I might be hallucinating too much, but I hope I was able to explain myself…


Thanks to meditation I believe that my patience and compassion improved a lot to lead with deceptions, but in a few moments the accumulated emotions make me less tolerant and it’s difficult to control the frustration. The very positive side is that in every experience I learn to appreciate things which I didn’t give the proper importance before. Just like the privilege of being able to go to a new city, have a bed, take a shower and seat at a table to eat. We exhale gratitude and relief in these moments.


What I would like to share is that I’ve been learning in this journey that we must be very careful with what we truly need and how we associate happiness to it.


Nothing fairer than relating about myself to exemplify. I’ve always lived in a house with everything clean, white walls, spacious room with a comfortable bed just for me, TV room, toilet with a sanitary with flush and a shower, kitchen with water in the tap and appliances and laundry with a machine and even a clothes line. I’m very grateful for all these opportunities!


Community toilet in Kibera slum, Nairobi, Kenya.


Being in this environment daily for three decades, all these details rule my concept of basic elements to live and without them life seems to be empty, sad. – Calm down, I won’t say that good is to live naked in the jungle eating worms and bathing in the river… – Wanting or not, all this life style was created for human’s comfort, to live more in harmony with everything easier and practical. Searching for this constant evolution is one of our major qualities, undoubtedly.


Actually, in my humble opinion, the problem is in the following steps. Like believing we always need to change what we have for something “last generation-imported-expensive-that everyone has”. And also wanting to go from the comfort stage to the level “luxury that I need to show off to everyone what I have”…


These two new aspirations place us in a ridiculous vicious cycle of believing that we always need to buy again to live the best way possible, in line with the latest news and with what others think is good. This way, our criteria of good and of what is really important to our life got completely lost.


I’ve got to this point to tell what we have seen over here, a relativity of values totally strange to me, who could always live with all I needed.


In one of the social projects we met in Uganda (we will share in the next post), Augustine, the founder and an extremely nice man, humble and dedicated to his community, invited us to have lunch. Our brief contact through email telling about the Think Twice Brasil and proposing a visit to know them was sufficient for him to gently prepare us a lunch at this house. Kindness.


When we got to his house, nicely welcomed, I caught myself thinking about the place with awkwardness… A totally personal impression. Perhaps because I was assuming that if he invests his time and resources in a project to others, he had very good conditions to live. The rooms were nice, but with objects spread on the floor, a Christmas tree tumbled in the living room and an open kitchen outside with everything on the ground, simple shelves and not looking so clean – according to my criteria of cleanness, of course.

House made of mud in a Kenyan village.


In the following phase of all my reflection, I realized that all that is marvellous for him, very good to live in his concept. He even gives shelter to four boys from the community, as his children are grown up and live in other villages to work.


After we left there this thought couldn’t get out of my mind for the rest of the day, for making clear to me that the concept of comfort is absolutely relative. He is extremely happy there and lives in pure generosity. I learned that we must disassociate to patterns that the society ended up inserting in us, dominating our mind, and stop to get to know ourselves back again and remodel our own references. Each one in his own timing.


We have seen this along the whole trip. We’ve met many change makers who dedicate themselves integrally for others and are intensely fulfilled living with simplicity. Like Rose and Martin who we met in Kenya (we will tell about in the next posts). Inspiring people, of principles, affectionate, who laugh at everything and treat us just like family. For me, coming from a totally different pattern, the way they live make me feel even inferior for having profoundly rooted in my mind that I need a lot more to live with the basic.


Room that works as a house for youngsters in Kampala, Uganda.


Very crazy, but it’s the relativity I have and a challenge to transform it. For what we give value to and feel we really need, we are the only one to know, but finding the means to evolve is fundamental. This is what I believe.


If you are comfortable with your ideal of comfort and basic needs, I’m happy for you. I confess that I’m still not resigned with mine, simply because I still think I need a lot to be good, but I want to be able to feel that I need a lot less. This has a collective implication of course, as today for a mathematical factor we, the few, have many and exaggerate, while the others, the many, have a few and suffer.


What is even more provocative, not getting into statistics, is that the ones who have a few seem to be happier and more peaceful than the ones who have a lot. Strange? We need to question many concepts and remodel them. I’m just trying.


Felipe.