Kate Katharina’s Theory of Relativity


On my ninth birthday I sat in the armchair in my living room and felt overwhelmingly sad. There was wrapping paper on the floor and what I’m sure were wonderful presents, and a cake too, but all I could think about was that time was passing me by and I could do nothing to stop it. My first decade was nearing an end and I was going to have to grow up.

This is completely true because I remember the feeling vividly. My mother reassured me that I was still a child but it didn’t help, because in my head, to be nine was entirely different from being eight. It was a milestone and I had reached it before I was ready.

A few months before I became wistful about the passing of time.

A few months before I became wistful about the passing of time.

I wasn’t precocious, I was just keenly self-aware. But either way, the point is, I was wistful about time passing, at the age of nine.

And could you blame me? All I had ever known was to be a small child and now on this day that was full of surprises and cards and cake, it hit me that some day very soon I would be a big child and I would have to accept all the responsibilities that went with it.

I’m 25 now. I know, ancient. People older than me especially like to hear me say that. They never sigh and roll their eyes and remark “What I’d do to be 25 again..”

(But seriously, a quarter of a century and not a novel to my name..)

There’s a reason I’m writing all this. I’ve spent the whole day translating an academic essay about Paul Feyerabend, an Austrian philosopher who was all about relativism, before he put it in perspective.

Feyerabend believed a lot of nonsense which makes my head spin but that’s neither here nor there.

He got me thinking about the curse -and the blessing – of relativism.

Alexander the Great had become great king of Asia Minor by the time he was 25. James Joyce composed the politically poignant poem “Et Tu Healy” at nine. Mark Zuckerberg was a billionaire at 23 and Justin Bieber is about seven and a half.

I could be here all day.

As most of you know, my accomplishments are few and far between and despite my best intentions, I do sometimes think about all the more wonderful people in the world.

And I don’t usually dwell on them because I am too busy with my quarter-life crisis and because wallowing, given the enormous privileges I enjoy, is quite obscene.

But I couldn’t get way from relativism this week. The news was full of the findings of a study that confirmed that Facebook “makes you miserable.”

Apparently, looking at beautiful people on beautiful holidays with beautiful cocktails doesn’t make you feel good, especially if you’re the kind of person that lurks, rather than gets involved on social networks.

So to spite Feyerabend, who despised the empirical method, I spent the week lurking, trying to find out whether other people’s more beautiful lives were making me miserable.

Further research is needed.

But the more I looked at it, especially when I logged off Facebook, the more mind-boggling it all became.

There are infinite comparisons you could make. You could compare yourself to someone with nicer hair or to one of the rats that skirts about on the tracks of the underground. You could think about how insignificant you are in the cosmos, or about how LSB didn’t scrub the pot, even though he said he would. You could think about everything you are or everything you’re not.

Relativism

Relativism

But when you pop on your onesie, sit back with a cup of Barry’s tea and really think about it, you realise that it’s all a load of nonsense.

The only thing worth envying is happiness. And envy doesn’t get you there.

Chocolate, beer, nice people and a good sense of humour do.

And on that note, Feyerabend, whose name rather ironically translates as “Beer O’Clock” has left me craving an Erdinger.

But my fridge is empty and it’s dark and snowy outside. And I suppose that relatively speaking, I’m rather happy and cosy in my chair, munching on some milk chocolate and writing my very first ever philosophical treatise.

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20 thoughts on “Kate Katharina’s Theory of Relativity

  1. That reminds me how I was serenaded with “you’re getting too old, you must be sold” on my 12th birthday. Gosh I felt old back then.

    Don’t diss the ability to write plausible-sounding gibberish. It could get you good job in public relations or marketing yet! And then you’ll be laughing at all us poor writers who have impossible hopes/ambitions to get published before their quarter life crisis hits them.

    Also was Clemens Ruthner doing the rounds of Trinity when you were still a student (can’t have been too long ago!)? That sounds like the kind of translation assignment he’d give…

    • Aw, your parents/friends must have had a good sense of humour! 12 was another tough age. Almost a teenager. Childhood slipping away.. puberty beginning..

      Oh, I do like plausible-sounding gibberish but I’m not ready to see my soul yet. Also, I’d be rubbish in both those roles I think πŸ™‚

      I never came across Clemens Ruthner. I had to Google him just now. I didn’t study languages though so he could have been there in my time.

      Have just completed the translation and sent it off. SUCH a relief πŸ™‚

      Hope you’re doing well and thanks for your comment!

  2. Did you really thought about time passing when you were nine?? I cant imagine anyone thinking about that – a child that age(if you are not James Joyce) should be busy with play and school. That’s all. Minimal self awareness. My theory is that if anyone actually did that, the maturity level is much faster than anyone else.

    It’s coincidental you wrote about this whole topic. I was doing quite alot of relative comparison before and my experience with it tells me, it was not making me happy and contented. By putting myself on the scale of others and rating myself with an C, I was pushing myself down. When I started putting myself on my own self designed scale, I find myself weighting A – for effort. I push myself from time to time not because of what others are doing but rather I felt that it was good for myself. That’s another A and because of that I score another A for generating my own happiness. By creating my own happiness, to be grateful and thankful for even the smallest things – if you had a chance to read my entry on A Trip to be Thankful for. It’s my first step toward self happiness.

    My initiatives have been successful to date and so far I have stopped lurking on FB as often because there was no more envy of others with what they had. Rather my days were spent on experiencing my own happy life. No more comparisons, I tell myself and I am keeping myself to my word.

    I enjoyed your philosophical treatise tremendously and will be looking forward to more of those treats:)

    • Hi Clariice,

      Yes, I really did. I didn’t make anything here up. I was a hyper self-aware child and I thought incredibly deeply about things. I think we underestimate the complexity of children’s thoughts. Maybe I was unusual in articulating my thoughts the way I did though.

      I think you are so right about judging yourself by your own criteria and in relation to effort. And I like that you give yourself a score, it’s sweet! I’m glad to hear your initiative has paid off. And I admire many things about you, your drive and interest in the world and the way you write meaningfully about things you see and feel, and your discipline and get up and go! So admiring is good, envy not πŸ™‚

      Looking forward to catching up on your posts. I have fallen behind with blog reading lately. Cant wait to get a nice cup of tea and read them back!

      As always, I’m so glad you read and enjoyed, Your comments mean a lot to me! πŸ™‚

  3. Oh Kate I know the feeling oh too well! I’m. 26 and definitely into my second year of quarter life crisis (also still no novel to my name!)
    Weirdly I’ve always felt old. Since a young age too. And the older I get the older I feel. If that makes sense. I also feel like more of an underachieving failure!
    Don’t worry we’ll pull through this together.
    It has to be said – I’m glad I’m not alone x

    • β€œYes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes.”

  4. Hmmm… I’m thinking I should stop lurking on Facebook!
    My personal motto had been, since the age of about 15, Everything is Relative. It means, in my head, that I might “only” get a B but it’s the best I can do. Which is probably the opposite to what it really means, but it’s something that got me through school and of which I’ve lost sight. I should dust it off and try it on again for size!

    • Haha, shouldn’t we all? Well I like my dad’s philosophy, which is “nothing much matters and nothing matters much.” You could see it as horribly reductionist and fatalistic or as liberating and encouraging. I choose the latter! I agree though, effort is really the only criterion you can self-impose.

  5. Speaking absolutely – and not relatively – the translation of “Feyerabend/Feierabend with “beer o’clock” is the most creative and culturally specific rendering of a concept into another language that I have seen. Well done! I am very empathetic towards that little nine-year-old girl. Self-awareness is very enriching, but might make it harder to find simple happiness. Remember the discontented philosopher and the very contented pig. But we aren’t born to be pigs – so that doesn’t help that much either. But trying to be mindful of every moment might be a good way to start noticing the little things in life and feeling happy about them. You have a whole life ahead of you to practise!

    • Oh Bewunder, thank you as always. You’re OBJECTIVELY die beste Mama der Welt! And you were right then, and now! Also I heard someone else use beer o’clock so can’t claim it as my own πŸ™‚ But it’s the closest you can get, isn’t it? x

  6. I have admit reading this made me happy on the grounds that I now fully realize that I’m not only one who feels like this. Join the club, Kate.

  7. I’m already having a crisis and I’m not even to my quarter life yet either! But you are totally right about the comparing thing… comparing is not good. My idea of happiness is a weekend spent watching movies with my family… no wild nights out, no rabid thirst for adventure… just quiet serenity. And that makes me happier than trolling FB and looking at the pictures people put up that are specifically designed to make them look happy. Because, for real… who is going to put up and honest post when they are having a bad day?

    • Aw, those simple pleasures are the best. Those are the things I really miss about being away from my family, friends and boyfriend. The ordinary moments of just messing around, being silly, or doing nothing at all! And you’re right, Facebook is the life we choreograph for ourselves, and not a whole lot more. Thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚

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