Johannes Euler, called Hannes, is living in the same communal house project as Markus and Christiane, through whom I got to know him. He is currently writing his PhD-thesis about Commoning in the field of water management, and is doing an apprenticeship as conflict moderator and mediator. He holds a Bachelor in Economics and Business Economics and a Master in Politics, Economics and Philosophy.
What makes me happy? Being with people makes me happy. Being positively connected to people, being cared for and caring for others. I feel happy if that “connectedness” is not a forced one, when I am not obliged to connect in that way, but when it is what you actually want to do. And if all those people involved within those connections are also trying to feel connected to themselves, trying to be close to their own needs and to other people's needs at the same time. This is one way I could describe happiness.
Another aspect is when I do something, when I do something I find nice and good, important, and useful. I am happy when I am outside, when the sun is shining, when I am hiking in the mountains with some good friends. When I have time to connect with nature and be in nature, connect to my body. Good food and bonfires, make me happy, too.
Now, this relates to the first point again; I am happy when I feel a good amount of freedom within the limitations I face and the connections I live in. If that doesn't restrain me, but if it actually allows me to unfold and develop myself, to do what I love. It is a bit like contact improvisation; I just started to do that again: When other people are not a restraint for me, but a possibility to grow and have great experiences together.
Home has something to do with me knowing, what is going on. Not that I know everything that is happening, but that I am familiar with the place. For example, when I come back to my hometown, I start feeling at home because I know the streets, the culture. Or when I come home here to this house, I know the people, I know where to find the orange juice... When you are somewhere and you have to ask for every single thing - that doesn't feel quite at home. That's one point.
The second point is being accepted. Being seen by other people as belonging to their place. For example, I am from Bremen and I did study abroad for quite some time, but for my Master I went back to Hamburg, and Hamburg and Bremen are close and fairly similar in terms of culture. When I came back, I felt like: Yes, people are speaking the language I speak, people have this kind of humour, I was not seen as a stranger and I didn't see myself as a stranger. The third dimension is a sense of security, that comes with it... sort of where I have a place.
But also, when I am travelling and leave my backpack somewhere and go out to see the city, when talking to someone, I will say “And now I need to go home”, so home in this case is just where I sleep, home is, where my stuff is.It's a bit like home is a place to which I can retreat, from time to time.
What really makes me feel at home though, is an invitation from people who genuinely enjoy my company. I suppose this strongly relates to what I previously mentioned, about belonging. Being part of something and feeling natural in a social environment and not being constantly questioned or challenged in this. Home is also the place where I can create something. Create space, create conversation, maybe also do something with the house, the place itself. Where I can express myself.
When I am abroad... I do feel strange, not in the sense of weird, but in the sense of being a stranger. Especially when I have the feeling of other people perceiving me as a stranger and if I don't speak the language well enough to integrate. I think, that are two very important aspects to me. I lived in Brazil for one year when I was 17, and I really, really felt at home there. After a while, of course. I needed to get used to it first. But after some time I was good with the language, I felt incredibly accepted, I had friends, that all made me feel at home. Home is a place where I can relax. It is a bit of a shelter. As soon as I am sheltered, it is possible to feel at home. It is something cosy, something protected. I perceive the outside world as being a very grim place at times, and home is a bit of a protection from that.
Another very important aspect; I feel more at home in any place, if I feel home within myself, also. I have a very strong sense of being “adjusted” or in the centre of myself. If it is a place where I can get towards that stage of “inner wholeness”, it makes it much easier to feel at home in that space. But also, if I am not feeling at home within myself, the most cosy place won't make me feel at home and I will feel very strange. And I do – I had that situation already, I was in a really nice place with so lovely people, but I just couldn't deal with it, it was too much, because I didn't like myself at that moment, I wasn’t feeling at home within myself.
The first thing, I already mentioned it, was my stay in Brazil. Before that, at least in retrospect, I see myself as a quite shy person, insecure a lot of times. I neither had a strong feeling for myself nor a general idea about life. Then, I made a student exchange and went to Brazil for one year. I was so lucky of having a really nice family and a very intense relationship with my host brother. I was having good friends, I was actually going out and partying quite a lot, I was really digging into the whole culture... the last months, it really felt like if a part of me had turned into a Brazilian. I still have strong connections with Brazil, at least in my mind and heart. When I came back, I came back as a different person. I was much more outgoing, self-confident and much more knowing, what I wanted to do. Much more happy, in a way. More spontaneous and grounded. Of course, to some degree Islipped back into my old role, but I managed to keep quite a lot of that. And that changed me for the better, I would say.
The second thing is another stay abroad. When I was 21, I moved to Togo, in West Africa, for one year for my Civil Service. I was there with Plan International, a children aid organisation and I stayed in a small village at the main road, the one main road going from the North to the South. I was working in a youth centre, I was giving courses to kids after school. We would plant trees, do advertisement at the radio station, I was giving art lessons and German courses a bit, trying to teach kids how to play guitar, those kind of things. It was quite nice, but my boss was really trying to keep me down or at least not allowing me to experiment as much as I wanted to. Also, I was always regarded as stranger and I really didn't get that deep into relationships and culture.
I was living by myself and I was alone quite a lot, so it was an experience of loneliness. It was also an experience of being and feeling strange, feeling different. Which I was; 90% of people living in the village never heard of the internet, which was very common to me; so there were just very, very different experiences, and it was hard to find ways to connect. I was never really at eye level with anyone, because either I was the young one, and older people in Togo really have the authority over younger people, so my voice didn't really count that much. Or I was the white one, so my voice counted more in a very weird way. Which both felt strange and I couldn't do much about it, though I tried.
So it was an experience of actually study to feel okay with myself, accepting myself, finding that inner spot of where I feel home, actually developing an inner feeling for that spot. And also feeling when it's not there. That made me stronger in many aspects. It was a very rich experience, a very exciting and also very difficult one, and it was changing me in quite a substantial way. Rooting myself within myself. It was painful, but it was good. In the end, I profited a lot from this way of feeling my intuition, trusting it, connecting to my feelings and my needs. Accepting myself as I am, because that was something I did not do before that much. The Brazil experience was more like overplaying it a little bit, which felt really good and I got rid of a lot of insecurities. It was that sort of outside-happiness. But in Togo I found some roots within myself. That were two very personal experiences which changed my inner being quite a lot. In very different ways, but I think they complement each other quite well.
Number three was in 2011/2012, when I just moved to Hamburg and started finding out about the idea of the Commons, which is still with me and within my life, even more the older I grow. It all started with me being in a social movement, and some of my friends asking me “You're an economist, right? What is this thing? I just read a book, can you explain it to me?” and I was like “What? Never really heard of that!”. But it caught my interest and so I got that book and read it. And actually it really got me because there were some thoughts in the book, that I already had myself (specifically, in Togo, when I had a lot of time..). So I found that I did already connect to that thoughts before and I felt that I wanted to dig deeper. I started to write a paper in Uni about the Commons as a democratic model for the future and shortly afterwards, I met Silke Helfrich, who is a big proponent of the Commons in the German speaking world. I was approaching her after a lecture she gave, and she invited me to a Summer school that was about to take place shortly after. And that summer school changed a lot –We were about 20 people in some place in Thuringia, we had beautiful time with great weather and atmosphere. Basically, we spent one week talking about this issue – I was sleeping four hours per night, I was so energized! I was not tired at all, not even afterwards. It really struck me. I went there in a sceptical way, searching the needle in the haystack, the needle that would make the whole balloon burst; but I couldn't find it, I couldn't find it until today, though I was really looking for it.
I became more and more interested; I really decided to go for it, because it changed something for me. It gave me a perspective where things could go, how a different world could look like. And how already today there are already good things happening, like seeds, which aren't fully developed yet. But they could be so much more. Before, I was looking at today's society and I could only say, that they are things that are really going wrong. The whole idea of the Commons provided me with an ordering scheme, where I could start making sense out of what I see. I was studying before and I was interested in different theories, but nothing really got to me like that. For me, it is an intellectual tool or concept/theory, that allows me to see differently. It is like glasses you put on. That's exactly how I feel; once you put these glasses on, you see the world differently, it does something to me. It's not just an intellectual thing to me, but something I feel, sense in many ways. You can only learn, when you experience it, I believe. And that was what we did during that summer school. From then on, I started digging deeper, I put those glasses on and also started helping develop those glasses in contributing to further thoughts and working on that. A lot of my professional work is going into that direction and a lot of my personal aiming and striving, activities, too. One of the reasons that I live here in this house is because I've seen many of these aspects of these principles being a part of this and I feel, that it is doing me good; giving me both, this feeling of home and this feeling of freedom – being connected to people in a very good way and being able to develop myself. Freedom in relatedness. It is a vision and it is also a compass for me in life.
Spontaneously – I had two people coming to my mind, very spontaneously, I didn't think about this too much. I go for Karl Marx and Mahatma Gandhi. And I would talk about how a better society would look like, and how we could get there of course. I am convinced that those two people would have very interesting things to share, because they come from very different cultures, and because they have a very distinct thinking. I like some of Marx's stuff, and I dislike some other things. I don't think, for example, that you need a “quick and dirty” revolution of a specific group of people who then seize power and change everything from there - and so the way of Gandhi's peaceful revolution, the civil as a medium and the non-violent actions and things are very, very interesting. To get those people together and exchange visions, before the background of today's development and technologies and so on and so forth -That would be really interesting!
Hannes' question: How does a good connection/relationship to one person look like to you? What are the underlying principles? And how would you translate THAT to a society? How would that form of society manifest?