Bubbles and simple beauty of joy

London is one of my favorite places in the whole world. I have visited many times but have never lived there. So, I am allowed to keep my “honeymoon” feeling 🙂 It is a city of stories. On every turn you feel like there is an interesting and important story. Buildings, bridges, parks, statues, paintings, museums, theaters, train stations, markets, underground.

But my favorite thing to do is people watching. Believe me if you have never visited London; it is one of the best places to do it. The world is here. Literary. And for that reason I love walking along the river Thames. The view of the city does not change but every time it feels different because of the people. The story of London has a new chapter each day.

This last time I experienced a chapter about joy. The art of bringing joy. How little it costs but how much it does.

Who does not like soap bubbles? Children and adults alike are mesmerized by them. How they form, how they start floating in the air, how they change shapes and how far they fly. Some we catch, some get in our eyes or mouth and some get away. I love the colours and the rainbow reflection and I try to catch a glimpse of our world looking through a soap bubble.

There was a guy making large amounts of soap bubbles. Hoping to make some money but also enjoying it. And so was everyone walking by. The children forgot about their tantrums and wishes for sweets or rides or toys. They just wanted to play and catch and wait for that incredible moment when out of nothing (well, some soapy water) comes something as incredible as these simple objects of beauty.

Joy is bursting out as these bubbles burst out. I realize that I experience something that is fleeting. We describe it as “having fun”. The bubbles burst or float away and disappear. The children walk away and after 10 min they can be unhappy about something. The adults take the photos and then promptly forget about it. But this is a small glimpse into something bigger, more beautiful and lasting.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever”, said poet John Keats.

Famous German theologian Jürgen Moltmann wrote on theology of joy. “Joy is enduring and puts its mark on one’s attitude to living. Fun is short-term and serves amusement. True joy is only possible with one’s whole heart, whole soul and all one’s energies. The feeling about life which underlies the party-making fun-society is, I suspect, more boredom with life than true joy. True joy opens the soul, is a flow of spirits, giving our existence a certain easiness. We may have fun, but we are in joy. In true joy the ecstatic nature of human existence comes to expression. We are created for joy. We are born for joy.”

For me, the simple fun with soap bubbles is like a door that opens for a short time to make us all stop and behold and then reflect why our heart so instinctively responds to it.

img_2225

Along the Thames (photos from personal archive)

 

A good city is like a good party…

Bangkok, Hong Kong, Cairo, London, Beijing, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Manila… some of the biggest and most densely populated urban areas I have visited or spent an extended time.

I smile when I think about many people I know in Latvia who complain when they have to go to the “big city” of Riga, our capital. They start talking about the cars, the people, the noise, the bad air… I think to myself, “You have no idea what it means to have lots of traffic, crowds, concrete, noise and air pollution.”

I love these cities and I hate them. I love them because there are so many things to do and see and I hate them because it takes ‘forever’ to get to those places. I love them because there is so much energy and creativity and I hate them because these cities ‘never’ sleep. I love them because they offer many good jobs and I hate them because they take people away from other places they don’t actually want to leave. I love them because there are so many people to be loved and I hate them because there is so much social injustice.

I am a city girl but I am also a country girl. I feel good in both and I need both. I think how the human story starts in the Garden of Eden and it continues in the new City. It sounds like there is an amazing place awaiting us. Maybe it is as nice and clean and green and enjoyable as Singapore and then hundred times better. I do believe that God must be an amazing urban planner… The sky will be blue, the weather will be perfect, the streets will be wide, the community will be whole. Hopefully no cars since we will not have to hurry. If there is no time, there is no hurry. We will get to places not too late and not too early.

My brother is an architect. He works in London and likes to share some of his ‘pearls of wisdom’ with me. Once he shared a quote which I have never forgotten. “First create life, then spaces, then buildings – the other way around never works.” These are words by a renowned architect, Jan Gehl, from Denmark who has devoted much of his life to improving the quality of urban life by re-orienting city design towards the pedestrian and cyclist.

Unfortunately in so many places I feel like it is the other way around. Like good and enjoyable and sustainable life is the last priority. These megacities are places of so much concentrated wealth and power and under the shiny facade there is often another tale. Tale of abuse of this wealth and power which means that the good life is not for everyone.

Jan Gehl also said that “In a society becoming steadily more privatized with private homes, cars, computers, offices and shopping centers, the public component of our lives is disappearing. It is more and more important to make the cities inviting, so we can meet our fellow citizens face to face and experience directly through our senses. Public life in good quality public spaces is an important part of a democratic life and a full life” and “A good city is like a good party – people stay longer than really necessary, because they are enjoying themselves.”

Where do you enjoy yourself?

DSCN1873

Hong Kong… one of the places I could stay longer

Bangkoka, Honkonga, Kaira, Londona, Pekina, Losandželosa, Mehiko, Manila… vesels saraksts ar milzīgām un pārapdzīvotām metropolēm, kur esmu bijusi vai dzīvojusi.

Pasmaidu, kad dzirdu pazīstamus cilvēkus Latvijā sūdzamies, ka jābrauc uz “lielpilsētu” Rīgu. Tur esot tik daudz mašīnu, asfalta, cilvēku, trokšņu, un neesot, ko elpot. Es iedomājos, ko viņi teiktu šajās vietās, kur ir pavisam citi mērogi un cita nozīme vārdiem “sastrēgumi, satiksme, drūzma, burzma, asfalts, betons, troksnis un gaisa piesārņojums…”

Es gan mīlu, gan ienīstu šīs milzīgās pilsētas. Mīlu, jo te ir tik daudz ko redzēt un darīt, bet ienīstu to, ka jābrauc tik ‘tālu’ un tik ‘ilgi’. Mīlu, jo te ir tik daudz enerģijas un radošuma, bet ienīstu to, ka šīs pilsētas nekad ‘neguļ’. Mīlu, jo cilvēki var atrast labāku darbu, bet ienīstu to, ka daudziem jābrauc prom no sev mīļām vietām un mīļiem cilvēkiem, kurus negribas atstāt. Mīlu, jo te ir tik daudz cilvēku, ko mīlēt, bet ienīstu to, ka tik daudz netaisnības un sociālas nevienlīdzības.

Esmu gan pilsētas, gan lauku meitene. Man patīk un man vajag abas šīs vides. Nav jau brīnums, jo arī cilvēces stāsts iesākās Ēdenes dārzā, bet turpinās jaunā Pilsētā. Izklausās, ka tā būs apbrīnojama vieta. Varbūt tik jauka, tīra, zaļa, ērta kā Singapūra, bet simtreiz labāka. Man nav ne mazāko šaubu, ka Dievs ir vislabākais pilsētplānotājs… Debesis būs zilas, klimats būs perfekts, ielas būs platas, cilvēki vislabākajās attiecībās ar sevi, citem un apkārtējo vidi. Klusi ceru, ka nebūs mašīnu, jo nebūs taču nekur jāsteidzas. Ja nav laika mūsu izpratnē, tad nav arī steigas. Visur nokļūsim ne par ātru, ne par vēlu.

Viens no maniem brāļiem ir arhitekts. Strādā Londonā, un viņam ir daudz visādas ‘gudrības pērles’. Reiz viņš man atsūtīja kādu citātu, ko vēl joprojām atceros. “Vispirms radi dzīvi, tad radi vietu, un tad ēkas – no otra gala nevar sākt.” Šos vārdus teicis pasaules atzinību guvis arhitekts Jans Gēls no Dānijas, kurš savu darbu ir veltījis pilsētas dzīves kvalitātes uzlabošanai, rodot jaunus pilsētdizainus, kas dod priekšroku gājējiem un riteņbraucējiem.

Diemžēl daudzās vietās ir sajūta, ka tiešām sākts no otra gala. Un labā un ilgtspējīgā dzīve ir atstāta pēdējā vietā. Šajās metropolēs ir tik daudz bagātības un spēka koncentrācijas, bet zem spoguļstiklu fasādes slēpjas vēl kāds stāsts. Stāsts par šīs bagātības un spēka ļaunprātīgu izmantošanu, kas labo dzīvi piedāvā ne visiem.

Jans Gēls apgalvo, ka “sabiedrībā, kura kļūst arvien privātāka, jo ir privātās mājas, auto, datori, ofisi un iepirkšanās centri, sāk pazust mūsu dzīves publiskā daļa. Arvien svarīgāk ir padarīt mūsu pilsētas viesmīlīgas, lai mēs varētu satikties ar pārējiem iedzīvotājiem un piedzīvot šo saskarsmi vistiešākajā veidā. Publiskā dzīve labas kvalitātes publiskās vietās ir nepieciešama demokrātiskai un pilnvērtīgai dzīvei.” Un vēl viņš salīdzina “labu pilsētu ar labu tusiņu, kur cilvēki paliek ilgāk kā vajadzīgs, jo viņiem tur patīk.”

Kur tu gribētu palikt ilgāk?