The orientalism of the 21st century

Minimalism. Mindfulness. Meditation. Yoga. Silence of the mind. Elements very present in the present human western moment in time. One can’t go out for a walk in the neighborhood – in a middle-sized town or a great city, in Europe or Latin America – without running into establishments offering services related to these activities. The great question is why. Maybe it was obvious to you, but not to me, so I took a moment to think about it and I think I found an answer.

Digital native life colonizes our imagination, our body and our space. Our gadgets own us – our time, concentration, attention, data, social life – we don’t own them. We need to have stuff, not to be. And we have to make it. Succeed, have a nice job (and not just any job, but a fulfilling one, financially and spiritually). We no longer dare to claim the right to boredom. Monotony and contemplation are rare, they become an allergy factor that disturbs and irritates one’s soul.

kisspng-watercolor-painting-wall-canvas-poster-bird-cactus-5a8e9d36b9ff22.0036741715192957987619We are being artificially trained all the time. We spend a large portion of it in conditioned spaces, movie theaters or amusement parks or gyms, which try to simulate in us perceptions and sensations that we could most genuinely and overwhelmingly feel outdoors, in our freedom, exercising to the fullness our body, our imagination.

Working hours is the fancy name that baptizes the handful of hours we spend each day at the given workplace. However, it never ends. The cell phone notifies the email you receive regarding a commitment you have; vacations are spent planning the work to be done on the return; the weekend is blocked by the possibility of concluding – through unfortunately mobile devices to which we are addicted – inconclusive bits from the previous week. Or advance those from the next. Some companies and countries begin to regulate it, but it is each and everyone of us who need more urgently to act.

We no longer have rope around our necks or whips on our backs, but the introjected charge on our head perpetrates cruelties of approximate scale. Alertness never leaves us. The sense of duty “should be studying, should work harder, should be busy instead of wasting time on nothing” is a thief that hijacks our present moment without even a chance for rescue.

kisspng-clock-face-roman-numerals-wall-table-time-5a7e11a8c7d771.9461796515182114968186We do not enjoy what we live, the company of those who are by our side. Our senses seem numb to the little everyday beauties, like a breeze caressing the leaves of the trees or our faces, the little girls leaving school in a row, the sun saying goodbye to the wonderfully nostalgic sky….

In the face of it all, the frenzy, the self-torture, the blurry life passing without us actually realizing it… We stop. Fortunately, we stop. We notice that any maltreated living organism – with bad energies or undernourishing substances – succumbs. It gets sick, loses its luster and color, expires. If even the machine, which we consider almost unbeatable, surrenders, withers, falls ill from abuse, exaggeration, carelessness… We are certainly no less vulnerable.

Happily, we begin to understand that if body and mind and spirit are in disarray, and so steadily, existence becomes fraudulent. Scam. An obligation that we impose on ourselves and that we carry out poorly, without passion A mechanical action that we perform without presence. By inertia.

It is at this moment, I believe, of the timid but ever so important awakening, awareness of the madness of trying to follow the flow at the expense of one’s own health, one’s own power to live… That our eyes turn to Eastern wisdom.


In this old tradition of thinking, the most appreciated exercise is that of thought, not of body. It is the exercise that searches the spirit of transcendent beauty, full silence, its infinite interior, without noise or interference. That which connects one with oneself, and teaches that one is able to ignore all the disturbance that leads in the opposite direction. Because one has all the strength in oneself, and just needs to discover it.

kisspng-watercolor-painting-wall-canvas-poster-bird-cactusThis exercise, this philosophy of peace, invites us to detachment. Because we do not need a large collection of things surrounding us. Thus, in addition to from the rush and daily cacophony, the alleged obligations that surround us, we learn to emancipate ourselves from possessions. Those things that often spoil our lives more than they add to it – after a certain point of possession of course. Those that hide the depth of our soul, fade our emotions or drive us away from ourselves. The essential is within us. The rest is just the rest.

Orientalism at this moment in the 21st century is therefore, I believe, a reaction. An adaptation that we have found to survive healthily the predatory chain of accelerated modernity. From the dictatorship of things. Adherence to this wave of orientalism is a decision that a growing number of us choose to take rather than medicine. It is a caress that we make ourselves, a path we follow in search of silence, calmness, balance. An option that, after being a lifebuoy, becomes a way of life. A surprisingly tranquil way of life, in such a crazy world.

Vitória Acerbi

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