Heart-to-heart talk: how to be happy – scientific and religious point of view

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to always tell the difference”
Reinhold Niebuhr, Kurt Vonnegut

Cyprus, 2008.

I’ve been thinking about covering this topic in my blog for a long time and eventually decided to do it. Firstly to structure it all for myself and secondly to share some thoughts and interesting articles & videos which I collected for last couple of years. As a result, this post is quite long and wordy, so don’t open up the full article if you’re not really interested in such kind of philosophical issues and get bored easily by them. In this case you might think that this is just an unpractical gobbledegook.

I actually find the combination of how important and how ambiguous this issue is quite puzzling. Very high percentage of people respond to the question about meaning of their lives with “to be happy” answer. And very few of them actually have any particular idea what this happiness is, how to achieve & feel it. Even in their individual case, not universally.

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Romania today: what to be ready in Bucharest and where else to go

I came to Romania to work for 3 months. Frankly speaking I wasn’t full of enthusiasm about it from the very beginning. It’s not all that exotic — same old Eastern Europe, it’s not widely known as a perfect place for tourism and vacations with great beaches and service, it’s not in the list of the most developed and advanced countries in the world that would be interesting to see. In other words, I could not find a single reason to see it.

But at the end of the day why not to use the opportunity to visit country which I would otherwise most probably miss? Wouldn’t it also be interesting to see the country that only left its Soviet past behind in 89 and already joined EU in 07? Aside from that I didn’t know much about the country to be honest. Others around me didn’t seem to know significantly more though: I was quite tired of jokes about Count Dracula long before actually going there… In fact, it appeared to be quite an interesting country to visit.

Romania, Bucharest

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Japan: temples, palaces and gardens

I would like to devote this post to Japanese temple, imperial palaces and just gardens. I believe, you can enjoy their beauty and sophistication regardless of your attitude towards monarchs, religion or concept of God in general.

Japan, Tokyo, Shinto shrine

A couple of words about religion. Buddhism and Shinto prevail in Japan, so these are the ones that I’m going to cover here. However, in general Japanese tend to associate themselves with few religions at the same time. Moreover, only 20% of population actually believes in any God.

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Japan: devil is in the detail

Distinctive features of Japan are well-thought design and attention to details. Compared to Russia the difference is easily visible: economy instead of wide scope, neatness instead of coarseness.This post is going to be a mixture of various interesting and maybe funny things that didn’t match any particular topic of other posts. So, what caught my inquisitive sight?

Take elevator, for instance. Notice additional buttons for children and disabled.

Japan Tokyo elevator design

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Turkey, pictures. Apr, 2010

Also, in April 2010 had a chance to go to Turkey for 3 days. Curiously enough not on vacation but to participate in a work-related event. However I doubt that I’ll ever go to Turkey on holidays again taking into consideration number of times I’ve been there as a kid. Anyway, even work cannot spoil mountains, sea and sun. And this is what I suggest you to enjoy with me on the pictures below.

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Japan: tea ceremony

This is the third post about Japan after the introductory and cuisine ones. Today I want to tell you about classic Japanese tea ceremony which I was lucky to participate in during my visit to Japan in Apr. 2010.It’s best to quote Wikipedia to give you an understanding of cultural meaning of tea ceremony in Japan:

Tea ceremony developed as a “transformative practice”, and began to evolve its own aesthetic, in particular that of wabi. Wabi, meaning quiet or sober refinement, or subdued taste, “is characterized by humility, restraint, simplicity, naturalism, profundity, imperfection, and asymmetry [emphasizing] simple, unadorned objects and architectural space, and [celebrating] the mellow beauty that time and care impart to materials

But let me show you the pictures from the one I actually experienced and provide few brief explanations.

The place itself was very beautiful with large windows to garden:

Japan: the place and nature

There are lots of rituals prior the ceremony itself but I will omit them for brevity.
Japan: tea ceremony, teapot

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Japan: cuisine and food

Well, you need to be the Captain Obvious to state that Japan has a very original and delicious cuisine. Variety of fish and seafood, unusual soups, seaweed, sashimi and of course sushi. Everything is fresh and delicious. You will like it if you’re open-minded in the first place.

Fortunately, we had an opportunity to try it all: the authentic cuisine in the expensive traditional restaurants, cheap fast-food-like cafes and a regular bento (Japanese lunch box) in the shinkansen (Japanese high-speed train). And all were good.

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Trip to Japan, impressions and beautiful pictures

My plans to visit Japan turned into reality! Thank you all for your recommendations! If I were to describe the trip in one word I would call it unforgettable. We usually slept for 4-7 hrs a night trying to experience as much as we could.

Japan, Tokyo, Shibuya crossing

Let me answer expected questions right away. How did I get there? Well, have been a PhD student in Higher School of Economics during the last year and a half. As I surprisingly still didn’t get kicked out I decided to participate in the organization of the student exchange with the Japanese Masters and PhD students in June 2009. Took days off at work and helped guys to get around the city and see lots of cool things.

Then, there was a long delay with no news. So, I saved some money and vacation days at work. But after 10 months the reciprocal trip was organized! And it was organized on the breath-taking level!

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Trip to Madrid: pictures and impressions

Ok, here is the short illustrated story about my trip to Madrid in May, 2009. I wanted to participate in the global corporate gathering with about 50 people over there and take a vacation at the same time. So, let’s travel to Madrid!

Madrid is a peculiar combination of the unhurried Spanish lifestyle and running of the big city. This is the city with its one distinctive smell, lots of tourists, museums, parks, cafes and bars. This is the city with the airport and railway station that derserve a tour. And, unfortunately, this is the city with thefts (yep, I got my iPhone stolen).

One thing at a time though.

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