1 October 2012 Flow and change

There is a custom at American universities that students should read one book together. What about Poland? Piotr Millati from the University of Gdańsk recommends Zygmunt Bauman's 'Liquid Modernity', a book which makes us stop fretting restlessly and guilt-tripping ourselves that there is something wrong with us. When we struggle to build deep relationships and fail, for instance, Bauman helps us understand that this can also stem from the very nature of reality in which we live – reads today's issue of Gazeta Wyborcza.

Like Montaigne, Bauman points to a problem but never provides a solution. Readers will be warned that this is not yet another self-help book telling you how to live. – Not unlike his other books, ‘Liquid Modernity’ is often a trenchant critique of modern society, but never a biblical lament over lost values. Bauman is not waging an all-out war on the new reality. What he is striving to do is to make people understand why they feel ill at ease in this world. Even those who can afford to participate in the orgy of consumerism, he claims, are far from self-fulfilled. Rather, they are slaves to unwitting impulses, whose mainsprings remain hidden from view. There is, however, one precept that Bauman suggests we should follow in our day-to-day interactions with people. It's the biblical injunction to love your neighbour as yourself. It's only when we break out of the walls of egoism that we can forge true relationships, the sine qua non of happiness – explains Piotr Millati.

Let us recall that this year's edition of the Conrad Festival will feature a meeting with Zygmunt Bauman, entitled Płynny koniec [Liquid End]. Join us on Saturday (the 27th of October) at 6 p.m. at the International Cultural Centre (Rynek Główny 25). You are most welcome!

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