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JPMorgan Supermodel Summer Intern Xenia on Greece and the Meaning of Life

Tuesday, 19 Jul 2011 | 9:58 AM ET
Xenia Tchoumitcheva
Source: Twitter
Xenia Tchoumitcheva

The Swiss supermodel turned JPMorgan summer intern Xenia Tchoumitcheva has recently returned from a trip to Greece. But she isn't writing about the debt crisis. Instead, she's posted a long, philosophical reflection on her website.

Here's a translation of the piece that we put together with help from various online translator apps:

Forget the Greek debt crisis and the concerns of the EU! I have just come back from a trip to Chalkidiki, the birthplace of Aristotle. I could not help but enjoy the warmth and positive lifestyle of the Greeks.

And, although most of them are going through a difficult time, the magic of ancient times is palpable at every turn — and it is inspirational.

We could learn a lot from the Greeks. I asked myself on the flight back: How is it that a people who lived more than 2,000 years ago, could grasp the world and its social laws as well as we can — or sometimes even better? Our brain has not evolved since the Sophists, who spent their lives trying to criticize outdated theories about the world?

Maybe this is already the whole truth: Life and business have accelerated. The average citizen no longer has the time to devote himself consistently to considering a problem or theory. We’re too busy with our obligations to do something else, to be on the road, earn money, cultivate relationships, everything, as we rush through our live. And because we do so many different things, we believe, we believe we have more overall.

But the opposite could be the case.

TV, Internet, magazines, radio: They just throw us all out snacks, small, consumable doses that do not widen our perceptions. The concept of far-reaching debate over important questions and their integration into a larger context has fallen by the wayside. More than that, our appetizers of internalized consumption threatens the kind of transfer of knowledge over the long run. Millions of daily blog posts, dedicated Facebook and Twitter messages, the mere linking of information that arises elsewhere. As we “reduce to the max,” there is a risk that we’re losing entirely our interest in deeper thoughts.

How do we recover a more contemplative state? One strategy, which enjoys great popularity in the U.S., is called simply "mindfulness.”

It is basically Buddhist meditation enriched with stress reduction strategies. It’s psychological therapy with [a] simple core: The patient is encouraged to carefully deal with their own environment, without judging things in the first instance. The idea is to come to terms [with] the things around us, to take time for a simple recognition and viewing of all that seems new or strange to us. Once recognized, the doctrine of mindfulness teaches, this new awareness will help us make decisions and take initiatives. We’ll act instead of always reacting.

This is a technique slower cultures have long since known. Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, with yogis sometimes spending weeks or months spent in seclusion. The Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest, where not merely the work but all other routine activities were prohibited, served much the same purpose as the Christian Sunday. Time set aside for contemplation and regeneration, once central to the lives of so many people, has lost its central role in our lives.

An idea needs continual spiritual nourishment, and especially the right environment in order to flourish. The collection of impressions and information we gather from the orgy of discordant information that surrounds us, can cause a flash of inspiration. But the human brain needs time to process it well. The misunderstood "reduce to the max” must be a properly understood. Less is more!

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