Imagine a world where people place a high value on sneezing.

It is difficult to know exactly what it is about sneezing that would make it so special to them. Is it the sensation? The intensity? The way it makes us think about the fact that the generally accepted physical limits of our bodies are really always in a state of relative flux, like the surface of the sun occasionally erupting and in doing so revealing another part of the star’s true nature, the one that isn’t governed by gravity entirely?

Sneezing. It is a force of nature selectively made accessible to us humans. A nod to the boundary between controlling and being controlled. It is at the same time something we do and something done to us. The doer becomes an almost passive collaborator, a mere participant, in the act that uses them as a temporary host as it masterfully transforms their body into an environment suitable for the sneeze’s fleeting moment of self-expression.

The appreciation of sneezing would change the way people look at, and experience sneezing. There would be better sneezes and less good sneezes, unskilled sneezing and elevated sneezing.

Some people would be very good at it and sneeze publicly, famous sneezers that people would pay money to see. There would be long lines of people highly motivated to get just a little bit closer to experiencing the ideal of sneezing as it is symbolized and embodied by star sneezers. You can hear a little amateurish sneeze here and there as the fans get excited. It’s okay to dream.

Sneezing becomes a specialized skill. A specialized skill is not a skill that you can specialize in; it is a skill that specializes in you, if you are the right kind of person. Sneezing may or may not choose you. Humans are but vessels to be inhabited by the divine.

Sneezing in public becomes something for people to scoff at. “Come on, seriously? Either sneeze in private or sneeze properly.”

As the appreciation of sneezing transforms it into something elevated, it increasingly removes it from its origin. A common sneeze is devalued. Sneezing just isn’t for everybody. It’s okay if you aren’t a good sneezer. Be satisfied with who you are. Find something different to do with your life.

Alone in the quietness of their home, far away from anyone who might observe and judge them, an ambitious person sits in front of a bright light, their eyes almost but not quite closed, their mind and body focused patiently on receiving a sneeze.

It is difficult to see a dark object in front of a dark background. That’s why you should smile when you are sad, so you can see the outline of your sadness more clearly.

My old tablet computer had a defect in its display that gave it a slightly green tint. I mainly used it for reading books. Black text on a white background, or rather: a slightly green background.

Eventually I got used to it.

My new tablet computer has a perfect display. The app I use for reading books offers a special mode that gives the paper a slight green tint.

I kind of like it.

Vacation days with no plans are a perfect opportunity to think about freedom. I have no plans, so I can do anything.

Anything I want. Within realistic limits, obviously.

But here is a question: Out of all the potential things I might want to do, are all choices equally free?

My answer is that they are not. And what I am only slowly beginning to discover and understand is that every time I do what I want to do, I may be fooling myself and I may think of myself as free when I am really not free.

Does that sound weird? Maybe it does.

But let’s start at the beginning: It’s my free day and I wake up.


Last Friday, something happened in the life of an old lady — I estimate that she was born in the 1930s — sitting at a bus stop in Berlin Mitte. The thing that happened involved me, but I was unaware of it. If she hadn’t made me aware of it, I would have no specific memory of her. But now I do.


Linguistic inclusivity has brought about a state of confusion where nobody knows anymore who they are talking about.

“Women-identified and non-binary folk”

Well done, you are on the safe side! You’ve included all the people that you are supposed to! Or have you?

Why do non-binary people need to be mentioned alongside women? Why do we call them “folk” or “folx” now instead of “people”? Why is it “women-identified” and not just “women”?

Are there reasons for any of this?

Asking that question is similar to asking if there is a reason why Christmas is celebrated. It is celebrated because there is a culture of celebrating it—not because it makes sense, not because it solves a particular problem, not because we’ve designed it to make people happy. There is no reason other than the continuation of a living culture of which it is part of.

Gender-inclusive language is at a similar point. There is a culture of using particular phrases—not because they are the best, most fitting phrases to use, not because they achieve, or at least work towards inclusion, but because a culture has added them to the vocabulary that people can use as evidence of their membership.

Is that good? Is it bad? Is it worth thinking about?

If we expect our linguistic choices to have specific positive effects, that endeavor can fail if originally intentional word choices become absorbed by a culture to the point where they are synonymous with declaring oneself a member of a certain group.

Words can lose their meaning. Anyone who cares about a social issue is well advised not to rely on words to achieve their goals.

I am a drop of water riding a wave. Am I moving, or is the wave moving?

As part of the wave, I am not moving within it. There is nothing in the wave that I am moving against. The wave is moving me.

If I am moving, it has to be in relation to an external something that I am not moving with: other waves, some moving slower, some faster, in relation to reference points that I think of as immobile.

As a wave, we are moving together, we carry each other. Inside the wave, being carried and carrying others are indistinguishable.

From a certain distance, the wave becomes a place. Its moving back and forth is constrained within limits. Zoom out more and the sum of all waves becomes a place—a system of internal movement that appears static when looked at from the outside.

Are we going anywhere or are we just marking the boundaries of a place? Am I moving? Who am I moving with? Who am I moving against? What is this place that we are moving within?