The most comforting forms of trust we need beyond political rhetoric

Humanity thrives on trust, and crumbles into ashes of burning violence when our security is breached. 

We must build more certainty in innocent, well-intended, harmless behaviour through the bridge between vulnerable, influenceable, even traumatised memory and future-oriented hope. We associate past experiences with present occurrences to simplify thinking, to organise our perception of the world into clearly defined shelves. Unfortunately, this can skew the reality as it is now in this very moment. Judgement based on distant past, on someone’s family or racial background is fundamentally unfair. Expectation corrupts thinking and behaviour, therefore we better shed the weight of prejudice, high hopes, any skewed preconceived ideas to open our minds.

contemporary photography Lee Ufan art Arles, France

Trust means that you open the gate of your confidence towards the outside world

By joining forces we accelerate, reciprocating success in an inclusive, equal measure that espouses a more sustainable success. Within a trusting environment we feel good. Mutual aid benefits not just the needy but the world as a whole. I do not promote freebees like unlimited social support on the disproportionate and demotivating account of some hard working fortunate few. While greed is bad, stripping one’s wealth involuntarily more often than we like to admit seeds in anger and not much gratitude from the beneficiaries who expect to be given without effort. Look at the tensions within the US today. Mutual means cooperative, either side working towards a common goal, prosperity, progress, learning, inventing, existing together in a more fruitful environment as well as inner comfort. Utopia it is not, it works in Switzerland. Everybody is motivated to work.

Swiss nature

It seems to me that religiously inspired charity has more beneficial effect on the believer’s psyche than socially enforced giving away. Further, the recipient of voluntary support may be more motivated to contribute, to grow personally when they know that the alms were given intently to stir creativity, industriousness and reciprocity. Of course, some level of checks and balances is useful in building any trusteeship. Naivety does not pay off.

To whom will you give your mandate? Not politically, even though one of the dirty tricks of politics is stirring dissent by cutting off the tightrope of trust in anyone/thing that competes against ambitious authoritarian leadership. Yet, collaboration, working together openly rather than undercutting each other is what advances society in a more balanced way. As if some of us did not share the same body, mind and fate in meeting death at some point in our life curve, scavenging for victory over the weak people at any cost. Humanity can be as cruel as it can be loving. Yet, in synergy we thrive as a genuine, beautiful joy is only free to expand through our chests when we feel trust.

Mao and Lenin

American art

Through random recent occasions I faced the delicate question of trust. In a high altitude yoga room with other mindful beings, during an intimate sauna conversation, all the while witnessing contemporary distrust in those in power as well as in the media, I realised that our relationship with others can be cracked into an open leak if we do not address openly our feelings of confusion, even betrayal. We need to talk, as individuals, as well as a society.

While humanity does not come short of flaws and vanities, one does not need to have high expectations of others and oneself to value trust. It is an assurance of allegiance, of good hearted manners and integrity.

interfaith wedding

True love is trust

To me trust is connected with commitment, faith and fidelity, all active components of a grown up, mature adult living in a healthy human society. This form of security in relationships is dependent on behavioural history, current signals of dispersed interest in others than the person in the mutually trusting relationship, and on clearly communicated boundaries of what telling truth means to you individually and how seriously lying disrupts trust in the liar. I just read a praised debut novel by a playwright Julia May Jonas that touches upon trust. Her Vladimir is about a more complex relationship and desire, and I recommend anyone intrigued by today’s wokeness and perhaps excessive caution, even discouragement from trusting others, read it. Trust features in many best-selling stories. Verity by Colleen Hoover topped the fiction charts for months for a reason, it topples trust in a most shocking way.

It is not just a cultural phenomenon or a religious cliche, but faith is important to humans in close-knit relationships. Usually, we trust more those we know well, for long enough than a random stranger hyping you to bungee jump off the cliff. Relationships are constructed of solid building blocks of small events that in their total sum make a strong foundation for stable edifice of certainty. Who likes uncertainty in relationships? Only extreme adrenalin lovers, perhaps.

Caring about other person is a display of safe-keeping. We are protective of our kin and those we love. They can count on us when in need. An independent and strong adult does not need a guardian, but cooperation is a binder that makes us feel that we are not alone in all what we do. It makes us stronger together.

How does the one who was being lied to feel? Betrayed.

A friend who always promises but rarely sticks by their word is not a genuine friend. 

A parent shall consider being being the most trusting example to their offspring.

black artist

The mental safety belt of trust

Insecure people hardly let anybody else into their inner life. Safety concerns can uproot trust in strangers. This attitude stirs enmities, discord, racism, violence, wars. In fighting more than one side are involved, so mistrust rusts on either line of unsafe existence. Therefore to prevent conflict we must focus on ensuring safety of all parts. Nobody should be left out when personal security is concerned. Anxiety rises in our mental state of distrust.

Individual insecurity can fog one’s perception of others, trustworthiness including. Past behaviour and experience gauge our trust sensors either to a more open, allowing attitude or a wary state of constant alert. Relay on yourself, yet do not refuse others care if you really need help.

Trust is like the winter road, it can be snowed in, but deep under we know it is there as the map and signs above the ground show.


Beyond hope and assumptions: trust your healthy gut

Trust in others is something quite different from trust in oneself, otherwise known as confidence. Beyond skewed ideas about others, insecurity is a complicated symptom of something deeper, like self love. If you value yourself you are free of self-harming. Relate to your emotions with warmth, not incessant self-criticism, as well as try your best so perfectionism does not swallow your heart but encourages you to improve upon previous achievements.

Gratitude never harmed anyone. Trust in oneself is believing in your capabilities and conviction of the value of your existence by contributing somehow to the greater whole.

A wise mind once said: “What you focus on grows, what you think about expands, and what you dwell upon determines your destiny.” In the context of trust this rings bright and sharp. If you are suspicious, afraid of losing someone, the anxiety will nest in the dark corners of your mind and rust into the remaining light inner space. If you judge yourself unworthy of others’ attention, your self-worth won’t expand. Flipped, if you demand too much, nobody can sustain that pressure. Selfishness never built happy relationships.

Life symbols

Trust is more than the Self

Intuition can become an adventurous guide in our life. Trusting it as a companion to reason, a complementary force to a more whole truth. Something beyond the puzzle just fitting together. Memory often helps us to solve puzzles, but there are also riddles requiring a different kind of intellect. That type we call imagination. As the poet and renowned engraver William Blake wrote: “Man by reasoning can only compare & judge of what he has already perceived. From a perception of only 3 senses or 3 elements none could deduce a fourth or fifth.” Indeed, the next, the new, the invented was beyond our common knowledge, until it was created or discovered it was hidden from our awareness. Blake concluded: “If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic Character, the Philosophic & Experimental would soon be at the ratio of all things & stand still, unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again.” We need imagination as its span expands beyond rational science. The spiritual element deepens the meaning of human life. Without creativity, science cannot progress. Reason alone is stale. Art can assume indefinite forms of expression and reality, and in so lifting the marine layer of ignorance.

French sculpture

These various forms of trust can be related and do not have to be. What is important though is that one is aware of one’s own shortcomings in terms of self-love and clear about others’ intentions. The later is perhaps the most challenging aspect of any committed relationship. An open discussion is healthy. However intense, honesty shall not harm a worthwhile relationship because if you really care about the other person you listen to them and accept their breadth. Good and bad.

“Let’s talk” is the most direct remedy for clarifying potential misunderstandings. Uncovering emotionally immature personality unaware of the effect their behaviour has on others, discussion allows for getting to know the other more and deeper.

Chelsea galleries

Trust may feel like vulnerability, so does love. Are all the great things doomed to make us feel unsafe? They do not have to if you are not attached to them. Rather, open your arms when you are offered theirs. At he same time focus on building your inner strength independently on the giver of pleasure. On your own, you are able to generate joy. You are your only sustainable well of happiness. Coexisting means equality, thus do not ever devalue yourself through the wand of a selfish lover not worth loving.

Like sun playing music through its light on the surface of the land, caressing warmly even the steepest mountains and deep gorges, move the hearts of others. Stand by them genuinely, so they can trust to embrace you with the bright comforting blanket that feels good. Your liability is up to your faith in trust.

Liberating guided meditation to release tension

Daily, we need to release the emotions we have accumulated from the first seconds since the awakened awareness collects in the mind and the body everything we experience. Psychic emotions often translate in the body into physical tensions. Fortunately, humanity has been around for some ages and we learned through suffering and pleasure that there are different ways to recuperate balance.


Once you were a cub, then a lion and later respected leader of the pack

For each of us something else works in different periods of our changing life. What helped a teenage you, most likely does not work as well for a forty-something or septuagenarian you. Yet, acceptance of change in our reality is not easy to swallow. Yet, once it is in, you will digest it anyway. So chew on!

meditationconnect with nature

One can run it out, box away the stress from others and work, torture oneself during a HIIT or CrossFit, sweat it into the water while swimming laps as if it was a race, in short actively channel the negativity out. If you don’t injure yourself from these physically intense activities, and you feel that at night you sleep peacefully freed from whatever you needed to shed, that is wonderful.

I must add, not just in my experience, more body stress in the long way does not release mental stress. How more tension can reduce tension? By bursting. Physical laws are such.

Swiss summer

Remember one of the rules of all life: Wear and tear. Runners knees, tennis elbows, footballers ankles. Look at the top athletes. Most of them are forced to retire in their 30s. That is young. Despite all the progress in athletic performance enhancements and  tools, their bodies cannot handle the pressure for much longer. Even the greatest must retire. While some rare bulldozers make professional competition into their 40s, most ballet dancers, tennis pros, soccer stars, need to slow the pace, the wearing down of their bodies. Roger Federer is still a history making, incredible player, but the daily intensity he forced upon his body to perform finally coughed with him. He had to admit that if he is to enjoy the rest of his life and his family while doing what he loves, he must take a step back.

Como Lake inspirationEngadine winter sports

We need to move and maintain our body’s strength, yet when emotions are involved we can mindlessly  and permanently harm ourselves while angrily boxing though emotional pain. The great news is that there is a more sustainable, ancient practice that is risk-free (unless you do it in the wrong place like driving or doing something else, you cannot do anything else when practicing this form of release).

A deeper release happens through calm, rest, soft focus, patient attention, when you connect with your breath, inhale, exhale fully, slow it down. Shortly, through meditation. It is about getting to know the unknown inside of you. While slow-paced, meditation is an adventure of self-discovery.


Now, many of you may find this super simple tool challenging. Still, you can do it almost anywhere once you know through experience the path to it. Like a missing key that slides easily into the lock. It is indeed not easy for the always thinking, running, monkey mind to stop and just flow. I have been practicing yoga for a quarter of a century (ha, that makes me feel like a well rooted tree), still meditation was the next step. I had not achieved the real flow state of oneness. While I mastered all the asanas to advanced head stands and impossible twists I injured myself when I let my ego controlling the competitive side of me.

All bad is for something good, I say when life’s hurdles present themselves in plain pain. Let’s turn to the positives.

Become water, a gentle stream, rippling glacier lake in meditation

I learned that one best starts with breathing control, known as pranayama. Breath is our always available friend, alive, always here to guide you, to connect your mind with your body.

Further, a great teacher with vipasana (silent retreat) meditation experience is your ideal guide. I was lucky to find one just when I need her most. My Indian teacher is constantly reminding me of the simple truths like discipline – you must stick to meditation daily, no matter for how long, just pacify your mind every single day. It is like running in terms of habit creation. Also, her experience is so profoundly part of her expression, that she almost feels what I feel. We mainly meditate over phone since an ocean separates our physical co-presence, and this does not disrupt the depth of the freeing vibrations we share.

From her well of wisdom and my own practice, I am sharing 12 minutes short, daily doable and enjoyable meditation. Ideally, wear loose fitting clothes and situate yourself in a quiet, warm room. Outdoors sounds wonderful, but not for beginners since there are too many uncontrollable distractions possible – from insects to uninvited loud hikers. Once you settle yourself in the regular practice, do challenge yourself by meditating outdoors or in noisier environment such as airplane.


You do not have to sit crosslegged if it creates more tension or if you have bad blood circulation. In any case it’s better to elevate your sit bones, so use meditation cushion or any medium to hard pillow for support under your pelvis. You can lean on a wall or a chair, it is important though to have your spine erect. Bolster your knees with pillows or blanket if it makes it more comfortable. Do this at least once the day you meditate. If you do it twice then, especially before sleeping, either put your legs up against your bed or cosy under your sheets comfortably warm in the savasana pose (simply lying on your back with your arms softly stretched alongside your body. This assist rest, but will not elevate your consciousness.

This mindful release can help with managing pain, blood pressure, anxiety, restlessness, anger and any negative emotion that is about to swallow you. Watch the darkness coming, but do not let it control you. Stop, sit down comfortably and start:

I recorded it this Sunday morning in silence without any background music or sound. I prefer to leave the additional ambience up to you since each of us has not just different music preferences but also a different level of sensitivity to sound. Most advanced meditators prefer silence. If your neighbours are just too loud or the street noise, ambulances et al are difficult to manage, play some ambient music without lyrics. I like the 528 hz frequency of the so called Alpha waves. On YouTube find a wide choice.

Light a candle if that helps to centre you before you start. Close your eyes during the entire meditation though. A blanket next to you can help in case you feel cold not moving.

NOTE: I did not edit the recording, there are no major disruptions anyway (besides gentle faraway birds and church bells), but I wanted to simulate a natural guidance by a real person. Excuse my signature accent, imperfections, I rather show them than faking it. My pace is slow, but not too much as I am aware that the length of your breath is shorter in the early practice. Any time I say inhale and exhale do not follow it forcefully, just do it at your pace, but follow the guidance in terms of visualisation and the movement of attention as I am taking you on this fairy journey of your inner self.Be kind and true with yourself! That is what meditation is about.

A beggar wanting to be a star: on pain

Can I switch a button

To rid me of my pain

To grow wings that

Take the body weight

Above gravity’s reign

Becoming an avatar

Smiling despite struggle

Always in the perfect form

Disconnected, not a who or what

Doomed human facing night

Created to feel and waggle

Love – hurt – joy – pressure on 

A beggar wanting to be a star

Desiring some warmth of light

In the midst of each storm

Take me away pull the thorn

Of living — make me a flower

Shed my flesh too long worn


spiritual artI wrote this poem on pain during a few tough months in 2022 when my body and mind ached with relentless suffering. Old pain can reawaken with a greater vigour than is tolerable.

In those moments, one only desires to rid oneself of the pain, yet by wish alone nothing gets ever done. Yet, switching the mindset to clear the vicious circuit of pain is the first step to liberation. When your body tells you something is wrong, it keeps at doing so when any cue presents itself in assumed reality even when nothing is directly affecting you. This reality is not just objective but includes the subjective perception and feelings about what we experience. So for example if you had an injury on bicycle, your pain comes back each time while or after cycling years after the accident. This is what complicates stuff. To put it simple, pain is a stark reminder of the body-mind connection. It is the memory that stores pain. And memory can play us.


I always thought that pain comes from hurting oneself, an accident, incorrect posture, disease, all physical symptoms of something just physically wrong. Heartache cannot cause real organ troubles, that is just the old poets’ imagination, I thought. But I was wrong. Years of physical therapy, osteopathic and chiropractors’ adjustments, dry needling, acupuncture, stopping doing sports that I love, having a glass of wine to forget that a stabbing backache taught me that some pain cannot be fixed by physical manoeuvres alone.

Further, I learned that emotional pain and psychological pain that comes from repression, negative thinking, exhaustion, and even from the unconscious depths of the mind all affect the body. Your wellbeing cannot be complete without daily balancing your mind. Having both parents seriously ill at risk of losing them both too close in their due time in 2021 affected me so profoundly that the pain stored eventually had to come into my awareness.

Meditation is wellness My cure eventually came in the form of daily release. The light shone once again above my head. Not just by doing physical stretching, although I did that too, but also mental cleansing. By meditating twice a day I learned to control better my bodily sensations. Not as far as a fire walker in India yet (I smile), but I can now understand how their zeroing of pain sensation works. Yoga is a practice of control and meditation is an inherent tool to achieve mastery over one’s monkey mind. I did not feel pain when the mind blocked the thinking of it. Countless placebo cures are based on such a strong belief in a tool that works. Placebo is statistically decisive in science which is forced by nature to deal with the mind in holistic therapy that remedies the problem.

Meditation both soothes the nervous system and assists with controling the mind. Breath is your personal present guide to whom you can always turn when lost. It is yours until death sets you apart.

Try it, it is painless and you do not even need to sit. Just be still, comfortably in a quiet and warm place and get deep into your happiness. As you progress even noise and temperature shifts won’t shake you. Meditating is a wonderful additional tool for your wellbeing, we all can profit from its balancing calm.

Art beyond the aesthetic: why we need art in this seismic, disrupted time with trust eroded

Art is the journalism of the past century. In the public interest some artists took role in activism. Through their unique individual lens as well as together in the often invisible collective creative cooperation, they speak to society with truth and integrity. Working with clarity and one’s open heart is what our society needs in this globally disrupted time. Chaos, too much change cannot be easily digested. Too many of us are confused about our shared values. The old guardians of open conversation struggle to keep relevant. While the press is not dead, the time’s pressure of fast media and unsustainable amount of eyes grabbing competition challenge their commitment to portraying truth. Now, art has the timeless potential to engage us on a deeper level.

spiritual art

street art Milan, Italy

Art as non-violent freedom fighter, moral & spiritual guide

As trust in formerly respected authorities — the church and the media — was eroded, the open gap in our justice and truth seeking mind needs to be filled. There is a spiritual dimension to it (Kandinski wrote an excellent essay on that; The Spiritual in Art), but also the basic need to talk, to open up about what we do not know and what concerns us. Survival, safety, ethics, violence, injustice, inequality, personal insecurity, shame, oppression, all themes calling for honesty.

Etel Adnan at LUMA Arles

Notes by Etel Adnan

Art can connect with these existential, philosophical, even practical questions. The late Lebanese artist and poet Etel Adnan wrote honestly on the need for global peace in 2016: “The world needs togetherness, not separation. Love, not suspicion. A common future, not isolation.” How can a sensible human being not be touched by her wise words? Peace is freedom, as equality is justice. Art can be a mirror of our society. Through theater, cartoons, digital videos, installations, all in the same way novels are in written form.

American art

‘The conveyor belt of life’ reflection in Meditation by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Art also became more political in the 20th century. Not that calling up the villains and highlighting social issues is something new, Francisco Goya drew and etched to print the homeless and poor in his social series as much as he portrayed human vice in the high society. More recently, the young African-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat alerted us to police violence, racial inequality, the harm that materialism and marketing do to our society, pain, struggle with our bodies, and more. Turning to biology, mythology and poetry, Basquiat reinforced his contemporary messages. His work echoes beyond the late 1980s America. Two current retrospectives (Vienna, New York) document that not much has changed since then, but the urgency ballooned. The ongoing struggles need to be expressed, heart and acted upon for positive change to grow from its deeply aware roots.

Jean Michel Basquiat

The late Portuguese multi-disciplinary artist and photographer Helena Almeida addressed dictatorship on the Iberian peninsula but also cast light on women’s struggles. Almeida’s art represented Portugal at the Venice Biennale twice, and most recently I was touched by her black and white photos shown at the hangars by LUMA Arles during the annual photography show.

Portuguese artist Helena Almeida

There are countless creatives who echoed society’s broad and specific aches to name. We shall be grateful for their daring.

Art as activism: climate action, refugee crises, war and displacement

On a grand scale now, great artists like Anselm Kiefer, Ai Weiwei, between others channel our attention towards contemporary issues. From climate (Kiefer’s Miami exhibit in 2021), political, poverty and war migration (Ai Wei Wei: The Law of the Journey reporting visually on the influx of refugees to Europe shown in Prague in 2017), existential threats (in Zurich, I was smitten by the French photographer’s Julian Charriere impactful series of nuclear tests and weapons annihilating effect on the Earth) to universal questions like our purpose (LA-based Cleon Peterson‘s “chaotic and violent paintings show clashing figures symbolizing a struggle between power and submission in the fluctuating architecture of contemporary society” currently showing at Mindy Solomon gallery in Miami), fate, life after death, mental struggles, gender, the body. Alone or with their teams, they work resonantly in larger than life effort composing vast canvases, installations, films, photographs and live performances (you probably heart of Marina Abramovic who is amongst the most resonant performing artists, she is also worth listening to).

Spanish contemporary art

Fondation Carmignac Porquerolles, France

Some of the most profound art connects old struggles with the present, it is  just dressed differently, perhaps expressed though a more contemporary medium. Anyway, mythology and symbolism are timeless tools. Anselm Kiefer retells the Biblical story of Exodus in gasps evoking, powerful visual tale in his two exhibitions with Gagosian gallery in Los Angeles and New York this year.

Ai Wei Wei took the stone bricks discarded from an old bridge in the violent and racially tense Marseille, France to create a new path in the art-themed park of Chateau La Coste in Provence.

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei connects the old and the recent at Vila La Coste in Provence, France

The octogenarian Korean Lee Ufan has for most of his long career addressed relationships between things. Through positioning of rocks, metal and sometimes glass in the changing natural or stale unnatural light he illustrates the reality of our world. Nothing exists just on its own, it always relates to something and thus affects the other. Oneness, change and space are some of the philosophical concepts he brings our attention to. If you do not make it to Naoshima island in Japan, just this spring his Arles Fondation Lee Ufan finally opened after a reconstruction by his Japanese friend architect Tadao Ando.

Naoshima, Lee UfanRelatum Lee Ufan

Art as authority

Once art commissioned by affluent religious authorities underscored the scriptures as well as the non-canonical tales and perhaps gave hope to the believers. Its potency was known to the church. Yet there was that other spiritual, the tribal art on the more grassroots level long before any established religion.

With the dawn of psychology, a Western science that connects the intellectual side of brain with the emotional, the rational with the irrational, the Eastern ancient philosophy with Western measured approach, art assumed redefined role. It can heal the wounded psyche. Its reach is individual but also collective if presented clearly.

Chinese artists

Ai Wei Wei at Prague National Gallery

Further, as wealth spread beyond royalty and the church in the West, art became the status symbol. Tinted with the foul smell of money, there is a lot of junk in the artistic output these day. Yet, human creative urge and the desire to go beyond oneself still resonate in some art works that are just on another level, they are universal and timeless in their reach.

In her ambitious book The Last Authority, the German art critic Mokka Müller, casts “art as the New Religion”. While her assumption is quite far reaching, her observant essays connect the role of democratised art as a shifting element in our culture. From music, through visual and performative arts she observes how Western society was moved by art since its 20th century liberation. Defying censorship, art is a potent voice in our open society. With power though comes responsibility, but only some artists understand this. Beyond narcistic or selfish quest to sell artwork, there is that hunger to express inhumane reality and the urge to help others or a cause in need of our attention.

As with those inflated rulers becoming authoritarian despots and dictators, inflated egos do not benefit this world. Also artists need to face their own strengths and weaknesses, their pride morphing into I am only human humbleness inspiring others to awaken to our blind vanities.

Chinese dissident art

Ai Wei Wei at Prague National Gallery

Art as a medium: healing through art

Through expressing our inner concerns, observations and feelings we share our common fate as mortal, struggling humans. Art is public and by making it accessible to all, not just for specific, limited groups of people like followers of certain faith, ideology, social circle or class, beyond one’s material wealth we open the world’s citizens to understanding each other.

The skilled artist can connect with the person experiencing their work if something universal and personal at the same time radiates though. In doing so their work can alleviate suffering, the feelings of being alone in this shit. By knowing that there were others going though this change, the awakened fear gets voice. Thus showing that we all want to live well and feel well, the artist becomes a therapist.

Japanese avant garde art

Pumpkins by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama

Sound is used as therapy. Also painting, photography, sculpture, installations or performative art at their very best have the potential to alleviate the physical and mental burdens of passing time. Immersing oneself in the art’s other dimension — the liberated space —  momentarily disconnects one from the pain of living. Frida Kahlo portrayed her debilitating pain in her diminutive smallness on her fantastical, inner feelings displaying canvases. The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama alleviates her mental struggle through colour, especially her recurring and popular theme of dots and pumpkins. She channels attention to mental health and the open door of creativity to all. Joy radiates from her sculptural and painted works. Millions of people can feel its power and the artist’s longing for true happiness.

female artists

Collective force ignited by individual creation

The composer Richard Wagner, the founder of psychoanalysis Carl Gustav Jung, the Catalan architect  and painter Antoni Gaudi as well as the aware contemporary influencers I mentioned here, share a common knowledge of art having potential to reshape and awaken humanity. Revolutionary zeal, injustice, censorship, inequality, violence, as much as our seeking of beauty, joy, love, peace.

The space art takes in our limited time experiencing it is relative to our individual perception. If I do not judge art, but rather open myself to the message it tries humanely convey, I can use my perception to connect with the other, to empathise with humanity going through another age of tumultuous change. We are in it together.

Future of food: seeking connections

The year 2015 will, hopefully, like a meteorite falling from the Universe divert the attention of humanity to our plates. The Expo in Milan heralded its theme “Feeding the Planet, energy for life” to the worldly audience, so Italy has become the epicentre of the quake for the global food movement. The World Expo highlighted the issues with feeding healthfully the growing global population. If possible sustainably, so food for the future generations is safeguarded.
When talking about future, we must consider the present situation.
There are two billion malnourished people, while one billion is overweight, and about a third of the food produced in the developed countries gets wasted. In the current situation it seems that all we need to do for an almost perfectly fed world is to fix this calculation so it equals ZERO. The UN ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’ alerted the visitors of the Expo in Milan by making sustainability the focus of the new millennium – promoting breed and plant biodiversity, reducing food waste, and balancing the ecosystem that through our activity has been miscalibrated by the profit and quick fix driven troop of multinational heavyweights (McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Burger King, Danone, Kraft, Nestle, …).
Wheat before harvest

Corn-fed landscape of monocultures

Did you know that the most widely planted crop in the world is corn? Not grown for us, but for the animals and even fish, that do not have their digestive systems suited to this grainy feed. As a result of feeding the cows grains they suffer tremendous digestive discomfort and pain. What is unethical is that we may eat some of this corn-fed flesh, but a large proportion of it gets wasted in the process from slaughtering, storage or transportation, to throwing away unfashionable cuts.
Since corn is cheep, all possible derivatives from this often genetically altered crop are used in manufactured foods to sweeten, homogenise, thicken or otherwise manipulate the heavily processed product. That is one of the major factors of the drastic food price drops over the past half century. The manufacturers feed us with vastly unnatural colourings, fillers, and stabilisers, while the real food content is minimal, as if it were just a seasoning on the long ingredients list. The US food corporations are still the food processing gurus, and Europe with Japan did not linger behind. Recently joined by developing countries, the development’s magic mantra seduces to such irresponsible misleading shortcuts.
Corn art at World Expo2015Chart of decline in biodiversity

Nature vs “Frankenstein” science

The future challenges us with concerns about food safety and its availability to the ever increasing global population. Yet, the volume of the voices demanding ‘clean, real’ food is higher than ever, enforced by the bass-booster of the information age.
Does the future of food nest in the so called “Frankenstein” science (better performing GMOs, lab meat)? On the contrary, will we flip back to the ancient, self-sustaining, low-scale farming methods, organic agriculture, seasonal eating (for the affluent, while preserving foods for the poor with time to spare) and pastured animals?
Echoing the environmentalists, sustainability-seeking and animal rights-fighting groups, the popular culture now seems to forge a global movement alerting the established multinational companies and corrupt governments towards more fair, nature and animal-friendly approaches to feed humanity. The increased popularity of organic groceries, local farmers markets, vegetarian and entirely plant-based diets, and the calls for transparency hint towards the new-old directions of our food system. This anti-homogeneity movement (such as the Italy-born Slow Food) could balance the excesses of modern mass production that pollutes the environment and is often detrimental to our health. As ironic as it may sound, after a century of limitless exploitation, for our own benefit we start to crave what our great grandparents had – seasonal & homemade food. Is this though a realistic path to the global food stability?

Learning from recent history: global solutions to stability

Power struggles combined with scarcity of food lead to unrest, wars and deaths. This ultimate survival assuring phenomenon still holds true despite the deceptive changes in improved fertility and thus availability of food since the past century.
Post-wars industrialisation and the mass exodus of people from the countryside to big cities created the need for food produced by someone else and conveniently delivered to one’s work or home. In swelling cities the soaring popularity of convenient frozen ready-meals, quickly microwaved and even faster consumed, set the foundation for serious health problems such as CHD we face today. The homogenous processed flab of a meat patty tastes like a cardboard, but is cheap and accessible to most diners with no spare time to cook in the fast-paced “developed” world.
Technology progressed, and with the “Individually Quick Frozen” procedure in the late 1990s the energy consumption was reduced mainly due to this minimally processed technology. The innovative bug never sleeps, while it ushers both positive and negative changes to our everyday lives. Therefore, we must be vigilant and critically assess all novelty.
Heirloom tomatoes a la "ancienne"

Omnivore paradox: Acceptance vs familiarity

Ingrained cultural values and tendencies oscillate between traditional ingredients and dishes and the ‘omnivore paradox’. While Italians more likely stick to pasta, Chinese to pork and the Argentines to a beef assado, the natural diversity introduces new foods into our diet and we can either accept or reject them. Yet, the access to a wide range of ingredients consumed in a rotation of seasons should interest the growing population if better quality is to be secured.
Tasting the sweet white asparagus in spring, honey-reeking cantaloupe in July, ripe figs in August, salivating from the aromas of the fresh porcini in the fall, and marvelling at the weirdest shapes of heirloom tomatoes, are some of the pleasures we were missing at the endless supermarket rows. Ironically, filled with often very similarly tasting produce (salt, sugar, water), they do not offer much. We should reconnect to the web of food relations including respecting the nature’s seasonality.
Challenging our survival instinct in the near future might be: rapidly growing global population, disrupted climate, more frequent natural disasters such as floods, droughts, wild fires, earthquakes, and other calamities.
Our survival is ultimately our responsibility, and food-wise it depends on:

  • how we affect our climate, but also how climate changes naturally itself and how we can adapt to it
  • how do we affect our landscape and how the animals and crops respond to it not just in terms of their growth but also the nutritional availability and density of their meat, milk, eggs, …
  • cleanliness and temperature of our seas and oceans and how it shifts the food chain in water’s realm; but also how sustainable are our fishing techniques (trailing leading to by-catch, antibiotics or unnatural feed introduced through fish farming)
  • how do we directly affect the animals that we consume – grass-fed beef contains healthier fats than grain-fed, etc.

Climate is a whimsy shaker of our already quite unpredictable life. Whether our terrestrial activities further volatilise it (for example leading to more droughts and consequently less water to grow and farm our food) or its moody behaviour is a natural cycle we cannot influence, we need to find solutions to secure our food supply. Water demanding crops like rice, and higher in the food chain – meat fed with plants like corn, need to to be reduced in favour of the less ‘thirsty’ ingredients. Seasonal eating could also minimise the impact of the greenhouse gases in excess generated through production, transportation and the longevity extending packaging of supermarket foods.
Landscape and soil are sowed green with the magic drops of water that nourishes the plants. If we deplete the sources of our ground water, then any “green revolution” (introducing sprawling monocultures and water-intensive planting) as it happened in the 1960s Punjab, India, will turn into a natural disaster. Concentrated chemical residues not just burden the soil, but they ultimately lead to less of total food produced from an acre of land. Closer to our fork, a third of total food produced globally is wasted. We need to rethink how we treat leftovers so we can feed the hungry.
Pollution of our soil, waters and the air undeniably worsens quality and safety of natural produce. Eating fish was promoted as essential in a healthy diet, but the level of mercury in predatory fish is so high today that pregnant women and small children are strongly advised to avoid their consumption. Arsenic in the soil poisons rice, and nuclear plant disasters pollute tea leaves and other crops grown in the proximity of places like Fukushima in Japan. What seems to be healthy on the superficial level, can be sickening when consumed regularly in large quantities.
Food could be a medicine as the ancient Chinese and Greek sages observed, but as the dose casts its spell, the once curative food turns into a poison. Some progressive chefs, between them the most influential chefs in the world, study the effects of pollution on our ecosystems, and ponder over the future plans for their restaurants. The three Michelin stared Italian chef Massimo Bottura created a murky plate of bait fish, squid, oysters in a calamari broth titled ‘Pollution‘ as a “meditation on the transition between what we know today as seafood and what seafood will someday be.” As he demonstrated, the chefs will find a way to create tasty food from anything that remains.
An increased demand for certain popular seafood and industrial fishing has reached the limits of the oceans’ natural reproduction capacity. Read more about the state of our oceans in Dan Barber’s book The Third Plate.
Our popular source of protein, meat, had been altered from its natural form through chemistry. Feeding animals with growth hormones and antibiotics is not just unnatural for them but we ingest all of that through our meals. The consequences may be an antibiotic resistance, alterations in our immunity, and perhaps even of our DNA. Eating much less meat and animal produce will be necessary for the future. Considering that during the past 50 years, the global meat consumption increased fivefold, and that protein hungry population is growing, we will need to cut down. A side benefit for health perhaps reversing the obesity epidemics and reducing CHD are complementary.
Sustainability, organic agriculture and keeping the growing population in balance is costly, but as the world is getting richer at the same time we can speed up our return back to nature.
MAKE out in Culver City

Meet the influencers

The human loudspeakers raising awareness and spurring trends in our eating behaviour are:
Media. Not any more limited to publications with large circulations, the internet with popular blogs are more open to discussion and self-publishing has never been easier. Fashions in diets such as raw-foodism, vegetarianism and vegan eating are widespread, and the increased amount of literature including cookbooks and specialist lifestyle magazines, offers better alternatives and endless options. The rule number one for most media is to publish regularly and to grab readers (viewers) attention. They nourish the users curiosity about novelties.
The media also reflect the popular voices and the past decade saw the launch hundreds of magazines devoted to sustainable lifestyle. Healthy eating is now not just the concern of mothers raising children, but also of many childless professionals and the ageing population. Having more years to live healthily requires better nutrition and this trend will probably increase in the coming decades. Even fast food is turning into an expensive healthy liquid nutrition with juice detox and liquids only energy source for many city dwellers.
The most influential individual authors in the English speaking world remain Michael Pollan, F.M Lappé, Marion Nestle and Alice Waters, all of whom call for better quality, transparence and local food sourcing. Vandana Shiva alerted India on unsustainable exploitation of its vast land and dangers for the farmers in frequent contact with chemicals. That pesticides have been linked to poisoning not just the pests, but also our soil and our bodies should not surprise you, but it shocks.
Politics involve lobbies of powerful food companies and the systems’ dependence on money makes transparency in the food chain and honesty in labelling an issue to circumnavigate rather than to deal with. The post-war chemical agriculture that rocketed up the synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, would hardly stop, unless the voters constantly and loudly call for it. Further, oil dependence in agriculture is dangerous for most countries without direct access to it, therefore self-sufficiency is the best solution to avoid conflicts.
The 20th century was also the beacon of cheep food revolution. The average family budget reserved for food dropped drastically in most Western countries. In France as much as almost 30%. As efficiency stuffed more our pockets, we have more left to spend on dining out. Eating at restaurants is growing and chefs now wield more power over what we eat than ever before. This socio-economic shift, together with the ageing global population will define the future of political actions. Obesity and its consequences became a high burden on our healthcare systems.
City farming
Grassroots organisations like the Slow Food movement established by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1989 also spread globally. Many restaurants now seek their “snail” of approval sticking on their doors. At the Expo the organization has a large presence putting an accent on biodiversity. Displaying how our corn, wheat and other crops have been artificially modified and how limited the natural bounty has become.
Slow Food was founded to:
“prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the raise of fast food and fast life, and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us.”  What slow food also supports the ancient system of crop rotation that naturally fertilizes the soil.
NGOs and charitable trusts like the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in the interest of ourselves and our habitat advices to adopt these sustainable practices when buying food.

Science steps in

How much has changed since Petrini’s desperate cry up from the Piedmontese hills! Through its University of Gastronomic Science in Pollenzo, where the world’s most distinguished chefs such as Ferran Adria give regular lectures, the interest in food surpassed its mere feeding aspect. Culture, community, landscape, quality, animal and producer’s welfare are on the forefront of its curriculum.
Science can be also confusing. One study can uproot another. As it happened with the hyped-up results released last year by the Cambridge University, that made headlines and even the cover of the Time magazine. Slab butter on your slowly-fermented bread and do not worry about your heart (saturated fats did not worsen the heart’s health in the study) was the massage that “butter is good, sugar is evil” pointing at the black and white limitations of our thinking. Open your mind and use consciously your intelligence when assessing research like this. By using reason you may well conclude that balance is best for our health and our society.
Nutraceuticals like dietary supplements and ‘functional foods’ are taking the Hippocrates’ alleged recommendation “Let food be your medicine” further. Creating the perfectly nutritionally balanced, by science backed healthy foods for everyday consumption sounds like a no-brainer. Long life seems within our reach. The well researched ‘Blue Zones’ confirm the possibility of extended lifespan through proper nutrition, but also by adapting a certain health-promoting lifestyle, so the magic pill is yet to come!
Through the above influencers the meaning of food is also changing. The family meal is being replaced by eating out or individual consumption of ready-made packaged edibles.
Conscious food
Decoding the future of food is like suggesting that there will be one way of transport between places. There are endless options for what catches on and what will not assimilate. Ultimately, we decide what we eat.
Some might be attracted to the made-to-measure feeding covering all of your nutritional needs, but not these foodies emotionally involved with food. Food is for many more than just a fuel, it feeds our emotions, improves our social outings, asserts our social status or wealth and stimulates creativity and joy from everyday life.
A futuristic nugget for technology users. My sibyllic prophecies on the food’s future contemplated the phenomena of sharing salivation-stirring food images on the social media. As the 3D print technology evolves, are we going to, in a decade or two, print our lunch in the office from a highly sustainable virtual menu consisting of anything imaginable for our taste buds? With a magician’s whip, a plate of delicious meal comes out of your 3D printing machine. I have no idea how they would make it tasting amazing, but one thing is sure, if it is affordable enough chefs will be out of work, kitchens become redundant in our homes, and any global food crises will be solved for eternity.
Forecasting anything is a risky business, which can be made more precise if current attitudes, behaviors and activism are included in the calculation. Our current actions will affect our children and their offsprings, and if you are not too selfish, you will try to do best to secure their and their peers’ access to the best quality and diversity of food possible. Unless we grow plants under the sea as they already do in Italy in the Nemo’s garden in the depths of the Mediterranean, cultivate our food in the space or on other planets, which is in a tiny volume already happening under the NASA supervision, we need to adapt to the fact that we have “just one Earth to feed the entire planet”.
NOTE: I’m not attempting to solve this complex survival-pressing agenda in one musing. If you seek more information from authorities in their respective fields, then consider some of my resources bellow.

WWF – World Wide Fund for Nature
World Expo 2015 Milan: ‘Feeding the Planet, energy for life’
Food: the history of taste edited by Paul Freedman
Conspicuous Consumption by Thorstein Veblen – social satire on capitalism and the rise of the “leisure class”
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Inside the California Food Revolution by Joyce Goldstein
Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé
What to Eat by Marion Nestle
The Guardian’s Sustainable Business food hub online

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