Life in Barcelona can be as fast or as slow as you want it to be. Since classes have started, the pace for me has been more of the former. However, I do pause and appreciate throughout my day. With a mixture of big events and many elements of simple life all converging in the same city, people here are living their lives their way. Instead of chronicling a big event or major attraction, I’ll focus on detailing a few of the little things that allow me to slow down! Here are a few small miracles I appreciate the most:
- The beckoning scent of croissant con xocolat wafting out of the bakeries during morning jogs,
- the bursts of laughter among friends echoing up to the apartment from the neighborhood tapas bar at the corner of our pedestrian street,
- the feel of the fresh, cool Mediterranean breeze coming off the water, ruffling through the palms in the park on the walk to class,
- the energy and excitement of the children playing various games in Plaça Barceloneta well into the evening,
- watching the diversity of people passing by from my favorite bench looking on to the beach; some exercising, some en route to a destination, and some with nothing to do at all,
- the tranquility of the streets before the sun rises over the sea,
- the resounding roar of the lions feeding in the zoo while I, too, eat my lunch in the campus courtyard,
- the determination and energy of the countless runners, cyclists, basket-ballers, cross-trainers, skaters, roller-bladers, and walkers,
- the glow of the moonlight over the sea as commission-less artists craft sandcastle masterpieces in the foreground while wind fills the sails of boats in the distance,
- the looks of amazement from tourists as the emerge from the underground metros in perhaps their first view of the city.
These are just a few of the things that make life special. Perhaps this is also just a small list of reasons why people seem to enjoy their lives so much here, despite any negatives! In Barcelona, regardless of your preferences, it seems to be easy for people to find what makes them happy in this vibrant, diverse world.
Happiness is a virtue, not its reward.
– Baruch Spinoza
Last week, as I treaded through the Prado museum on ailing feet — with the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum still ahead of me — I marveled at the deluge of treasures from different points in the evolution of modern history. These periods yielded innovations in art and technology drastically eclipsing the pace of generations immediately preceding. I began speculating about the exact set of conditions that fueled these “golden eras”, and how these conditions could be met globally to facilitate most conducive climate to another “enlightenment” period of great human advancement. Another leap forward would be significant to presumably produce technological and intellectual treasures enhancing the lives of future generations.
The set of conditions that seems like the most logical starting point (backed by historical cases), would undoubtedly include widespread access to and dissemination of information, knowledge, and education. On the historical timeline, we live in an age in which one could argue that there is already an abundance of free knowledge and information. It is also true that the world has made great strides in the global fight against poverty. BUT, what if, we consider the opportunity cost of poverty (both absolute poverty in the cases of undeveloped countries and relative poverty in the cases of wealthy countries)?
Improving educations and economic opportunities at all levels on the human development ladder would indisputably lead to new bounties of transferable knowledge and improvements, thereof. Educational and economic opportunities will make the global information markets more conducive to discovering and maximizing talents. Would the opportunity cost of fighting poverty include accelerated innovation in clean energy, efficient healthcare systems; or even more simply by stifling violence, environmental damage, and excessive population growth? Healthcare, for instance, even in the most advanced societies can benefit from merging the focus on extending lifespan with the concept of improving healthspan (optimal holistic health and wellness throughout one’s lifespan). Likely, future innovations would extend to areas unseen and benefit generations, as well as the global environment they’ll be living in.
Aside from the inherent altruism, fighting poverty makes artistic and scientific participation more inclusive by attacking asymmetries in information and knowledge. In our modern world of extreme capital wealth, such necessary investments in human development are possible to achieve! We have the tools to realize unprecedented innovative participation. Human and economic development can be both a means and an end!
You must let suffering speak, if you want to hear the truth.
― Cornel West
(Image © Benjamin Anderson 2014)