The Brave Coward

Understanding Strength Through Usopp from One Piece

“Romance Dawn” is the title of One Piece’s first chapter published in July 1997. While One Piece tackles many different topics, themes, and ideas, at its core it’s a story about romance. By romance, I refer to the wider notion of romance, the feeling of excitement and mystery beyond everyday life, the longing of following one’s dreams. In its essence, One Piece is the ultimate romanticised pirate adventure. The world of One Piece is inhabited by sea monsters, giants, humans with superpowers, talking animals, angels, and self-proclaimed gods. Amidst all of that, there is also Usopp, the sniper of the Straw Hat Crew. He is a weakling, a coward, a liar and most of the time, a crybaby. The polar opposite of what a great pirate is supposed to be, right? Except that I think, he is one of the bravest and most powerful characters in the entire series.

While the Straw Hat Pirates all travel together, they each have individual dreams they strive for. In Usopp’s case, this entails becoming a brave warrior of the sea, similar to the giants he unwaveringly idolizes. The only problem: he is neither as physically strong as a warrior nor is he brave in the common sense of the word. In fact, he often hides behind his lies and comrades when facing a superior enemy. As their journey progresses, it is only natural for their enemies to get stronger as well. After barely avoiding a near-death situation on Long Ring Long Land trying to protect Robin, he recognises his uselessness. Usopp convinces himself that he, like their ship, won’t reach their final destination. He leaves the crew because he doesn’t want to drag them down. His understanding of strength is ignorant. Strength isn’t limited to physical power. As Sanji points out later, he should focus on what he can do. Through the persona of Sniper King, he uses his lies as a source of internal strength, allowing him to stand at his comrades’ side again. While his strength isn’t remarkable, his reach as a sniper is, allowing him to play a crucial part in Robin’s rescue. The idea of strength gets perfectly contrasted by Spandam, the antagonist of this story arc who fittingly gets defeated by Usopp. Spandam has no power of his own. He only wields power in the form of the buster call and CP9 members, representing everything Usopp doesn´t want to be.  

By understanding his weaknesses, Usopp gains new strength. However, his understanding of Sanji’s words remained incomplete until the Straw Hats reach the island of love and passion, Dressrosa. Once more, he finds himself facing the aftermath of his lies while being the only one who can still complete their mission to knock out Sugar and break the country’s distortion. Overwhelmed by his anxiety and guilt over betraying the Tontatta Tribe’s trust, he realizes the greater meaning behind Sanji’s advice. Not do what only you can do but do everything you can do. He understands that he can’t hide behind his mask forever, dropping it and his lies with it. Through honesty, he pulled off a miracle so great the people who witness it literally titled him God afterwards. This development in character is represented by his bounty poster changing from Sniper King to God Usopp. For him to achieve his dream and become a great warrior of the sea, he must become an honest one.

There are many lessons we can learn by examining the character of Usopp but for me, it is oddly comforting to see a character in this larger-than-life setting struggling with the same mundane things I struggle with on a daily basis: battling with and ultimately overcoming his nature even in the face of great adversity.

Author: Michael Felber

Bend It Like Buddha

Yoga as a Form of Mindfulness and Its Effect on Mental Health

 “Just do yoga.” –  A phrase that might just be all too familiar to anyone who has struggled with their mental health before. Suggestions such as this can be frustrating, as mental health is much more complex than this. So, how could a bit of twisting and breathing help with that?

Yoga is widely known and is practiced by millions worldwide. But it is much more than just complex bodily figures. Mindful Yoga in particular, has been proven to help alleviate symptoms of many mental health disorders. So let me bend your perspective on Yoga.

Yoga: more than overpriced sportswear

The term Yoga derives from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” meaning “union”. As a philosophy it originated in the Indus-Saraswati Valley civilization around 2700 BC, before striking roots and flourishing in India. Often only reduced to a form of exercise in western countries, the philosophy of Yoga includes not only the body but also the breath and mind. The body postures (asanas) are used to prepare the body for the following meditation. The goal of yoga is the unity of body, breath and mind to achieve well-being.

A brief look at Mindfulness

Mindfulness was not invented by apps such as Headspace but is rooted deeply in Buddhist tradition. As a central aspect of meditative training the Buddhist understanding of mindfulness is defined by a strong focus on the body, feelings and thoughts in the present moment, cultivating acceptance, emotional balance, and well-being. A modern concept of mindfulness as a therapeutic practice was developed by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn with his Mindful based stress reduction program (MBSR). Taking inspiration from the Buddhist tradition, it fosters non-judgemental and non-reactive focus on body and mind in the present moment. Next to other studies, one study conducted on Norwegian university students, showed the effectiveness of MBSR, after students reported a decrease in mental distress after the program. MBSR has also been used to support treatment of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression and can even be linked to neurological changes in the brain.

Mindful yoga: “a method to stop thought waves”

Due to its mediative aspect Yoga is part of the MBSR program. It is important to note, however, that not all mindfulness is Yoga and not all Yoga is mindful. Mindful yoga includes mind-body awareness and paying close attention to your thoughts and bodily sensations as you move through your practice. Applying Buddhist mindfulness teachings, it puts the emphasis on observing rather than reacting. Studies show that mindful yoga fosters awareness of yourself and your surroundings and encourages patience and compassion for yourself and others.  It also helps accept external circumstances and is linked to a higher distress tolerance.

How Yoga helps with my mental health

Apart from increasing my strength and flexibility, Yoga has become a stable rock I hold onto, when waves of anxiety overcome me. It allows me to focus on my body and breath and let go of internal and external distractions. I believe, Yoga is a celebration of what the body and mind are capable of, while encouraging patience and self-compassion. The beauty of Yoga is, there is no one way to do yoga, there is a variety of types for everyone. And while it should never be a substitute for professional treatment, Yoga can be something you gift yourself and your well-being.

So, roll out your mat; inhale, exhale and let it go.

Author: Svenja Gleich

Small stitch, big effect

Why donating blood is a true act of human kindness

Syringes, needles and the sight of blood – the definition of a nightmare for many people. Admittedly, getting a long needle inserted into your vein and seeing your own blood run into a bag can be terrifying. What I’ve just described to you is everyday life for our silent heroes. Those who don’t wear capes – those who donate blood and save thousands of lives.

Can I give blood?

If you’ve decided to donate blood, congrats! You’ve already made the first step into the right direction. Fortunately, there aren’t too many prerequisites you need to fulfill. Firstly, you have to be fit and healthy, which seems obvious. A minimum weight of 50 kilograms is required, otherwise your body couldn’t cope with the missing amount of blood. Be careful if you’re pregnant or have recently traveled to a foreign country (especially tropical regions with diseases like malaria). To really be on the safe side, donors fill out a detailed questionnaire about personal data which is then thoroughly examined by a doctor during a preparatory conversation. Unfortunately, due to the current legal situation, some people (like queer men or trans people) are excluded from donating blood. Make sure to eat and drink sufficiently on the day of your donation to avoid fainting. In the aftermath, you mustn’t do any kind of physically exhausting activity.

What happens to my blood?

The process of donating itself takes only ten minutes. A blood pressure cuff helps the nurses find a suitable vein where they insert the needle. This is nowhere near as painful as people always imagine. Next, approximately 500 milliliters are extracted. This is quite a lot, considering that an ordinary person has a total of 4.5 to 6 liters of blood running through their veins. Afterwards, the blood is split up into its components in a centrifuge and examined for diseases in a laboratory. Plasma makes the biggest part and is used to fabricate different kinds of medicines. Erythrocytes, the red blood cells, help people who have lost lots of blood due to accidents or during surgery. Platelets, causing the blood to clot, are indispensable for cancer treatment. As all three parts are included in your blood, a single donation makes you a triple lifesaver!

Who will receive my blood?

In the USA, 36.000 donations are needed – every day!  Especially cancer patients depend on them, as platelets are used for chemotherapy. The second group of recipients suffer from severe cardiac or intestinal diseases, followed by injuries caused by accidents. Hospitals are in urgent need of blood type 0 rhesus-negative because it’s regarded as universally compatible. To be precise, everyone can receive a donation of this type regardless of their own. Statistically, everyone needs one blood donation in the course of their life on average. But did you know that you can also donate blood to yourself? Sounds strange but it’s possible if surgery is performed on you. In this case, you can be 100 percent sure that your body won’t reject the donation. In the end, it doesn’t matter who receives your blood. The only thing that counts is the fact that you will save someone’s life. If this isn’t the best reward, what is?

Author: Chiara Ferner

An insight in North Frisian customs

Since I was two years old, I have been to the North Sea at least once a year, therefore this area is like a second home to me. Almost everyone has been to the North Sea of Germany at some point in their life, but most people don’t know much about the actual lifestyle of this North Frisian area, probably also due to the fact that most traditions are celebrated outside the school holidays when most tourists are visiting the area. That’s why I invite you on a journey through a whole year of North Frisian customs.

North Frisia is the northernmost district of Germany. It is located within the German state Schleswig-Holstein and includes the mainland area from the town Hattstedt-Schobüll up to the German-Danish border and also the North Frisian Islands Föhr, Amrum, Sylt, Helgoland, Pellworm, Nordstrand and the Halligen.

We assume that the custom called Biikebrennen goes back to the Middle Age where it was used to drive away evil spirits in order to save the new seeds. Later, in the time of whaling, it served to send off the whalers. Biikebrennen is celebrated on the 21st of February. During the week beforeeach village builds up a huge stack of wood, mostly out of old Christmas trees and other garden waste, which is burnt down in a celebratory ceremony with singing, performances or poems presented in the North Frisian dialect. Traditionally, green cabbage is eaten afterwards.

At the end of April or the beginning of May, the Brent goose days take place. At this time of the year, about 80,000 brent gooses take a rest in the mud flats. It is mainly celebrated on the Halligen with guided tours, lecture series, boat trips, mudflat hiking tours and play activities for children.

The Cabbage days of Dithmarschen is a two-weeks celebration of the superfood cabbage which takes place at the end of September. Stationary elements of these days are the first cut of the cabbage harvest, city festivals, craft markets, cabbage workshops, festival marquees, the cabbage slice championship as well as the cabbage race in Marne.

Another custom is the setup of the “Jöölboom“, also called Frisian tree, which is a variety of Christmas tree. It consists of a small wooden frame with a circle of green branches. Inside the circle, the frame is decorated with figures out of salt paste that represent a pig, a cow, a sheep, a horse, a rooster, a sailing ship and a mill. At the bottom of the frame, we see Adam and Eve under an apple tree with a snake. Other decorations can be natural products such as apples, raisins or prunes. The Jöölboom is mostly placed at a window or on a table in the living room.

The last custom of a year is the one of the night of New Year’s Eve; on the Halligen it is called “Rummelpott-walk”, on Föhr “Kenkner”, “Hulken” on Amrum and “Masked walk of Omtaaceltics” on Sylt. Groups of friends who are dressed up, go from door to door, sing songs accompanied rhythmically of their “Rummelpott”, which is a type of drum that had its heyday in the 15th to 18th century. In return for their music and performance the group receives apples, baked products or other sweets. Groups of adults often get a glass of liquor instead of sweets.

These are the main North Frisian customs of a year. I hope I could give you a new view on this area and its culture; And who knows – maybe you will have the chance to experience one of these customs one day!

Author: Annika Domschat

Major Impact of Gender Discussion on Sports

German Athlete First To Wear Full-Body Suit at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Basel

Sarah Voss, a German athlete, was the first woman ever to wear a full-body suit at the European Artistic Gymnastics championship in Basel in 2021. She is glad that she did it and proud of herself for being a role model, which is shown by the athletes following her example, such as those at the multi-discipline competition in Stuttgart. It was a positive experience while she felt comfortable and good-looking, as well.

Better well-being and still aesthetic?

In gymnastics, the focus is on the athletes’ bodies as they perform. Therefore, the whole performance, including the clothes, must be elegant. This is the reason why athletes are often very lightly dressed, only wearing short and tight, swimsuit-like clothing, especially at competitions, which makes many of them feel uncomfortable and naked. People often think that these are the only outfits allowed. However, wearing full-body suits has been allowed since 2009 – but they are hardly ever worn, which is proven by the fact that Voss’ performance has become such a controversial topic in the media. Sarah Voss’ performance and the incredibly positive reactions show that even full-body suits can be aesthetic and serve their purpose in gymnastics – and, most importantly, having to worry less about wardrobe malfunctions can improve the athletes’ performances.

A Sign against Sexualisation

Gender discussions are an everyday topic these days, but nevertheless, if even just one single woman tries something new or unusual, the whole world talks about it. This is about self-determination and the bodily autonomy of women, as well. They should be free to decide how they dress in our society and to feel good about it. We live in an open-minded culture regarding the clothes worn at competitions; that much should have become clear after Voss’ brave performance. Moreover, the gymnasts practise their sport because they like it and to have fun, not because they want to present themselves or their bodies. Voss and her fellow competitors on the German national team started a new era and hope for the others to follow their example so they can finally feel safe and comfortable – not only while practising, but at competitions as well.

By now, we should have reached a point where this topic should not need to be discussed anymore but be considered normal. Sarah Voss left a mark on gymnastics with her decision. She serves as a role model for other athletes – young and old – and took a step further towards rethinking deep-rooted behaviours.

Author: Emma Ripper

OK Millennials?

How the online fight between Gen Z and the Millennials escalated

Not far ago, in 2019, millennials were mocking the baby boomer generation by using the phrase “OK Boomer“. Now the tables have turned, and the Millennials are no longer the revolutionary generation making fun of the old established attitudes. Millennials are now the target of online jokes regarding their fashion by the younger generation, Gen Z. 

Would you describe your clothing style as trendy? If so, it is likely that you can be considered as a part of Gen Z. Or do you still love to wear your skinny jeans and side-parted hair like a typical millennial? These simple preferences regarding different fashion choices have divided the internet and led to a generational conflict on various online platforms. Whereas some Gen Zs have claimed that skinny jeans are now out of fashion and should be “cancelled“, some Millennials have fought back, protesting that no one can prescribe what to wear. This whole conflict escalated quickly, leading to hate songs and mocking videos. In my opinion, the people who took part in this online fight damaged the reputation of their generation. Especially for the Millennials, regarding their age, an online fight about fashion was not the most mature idea.

Millennials vs Gen

According to the Pew Research Centre, anyone born between 1981 and 1996 is a Millennial. The generation afterwards, Gen Z, is classified between 1997 and 2012. This categorisation implies that you share experiences with other people of your generation, like major political events, the economic situation of your country or the cultural and social influences through popular culture. Millennials were often criticised in newspapers as lazy in their career, unable to commit to their relationships and even as Facebook addicted. Yet, they are seen as adaptable, tolerant and open-minded. If you compare these to the stereotypical characteristics of a Gen Z, many are relatively similar. Like Millennials, Gen Zs are connected through social media, using Instagram and TikTok. Critics perceive their multitasking abilities as a lack of focusing. Additionally, Gen Z shares the liberal tolerant political view but appears more vocal and active, as seen in the “Fridays for Future“ movement. Another difference is Gen Z’s preference in working, where not flexibility but independence is favoured. As you can see, these two differ in some areas, like fashion, but are not oppositional. 

Do you identify with your generation?

After the controversial online dispute, I asked myself if I really identify with my generation. Even though I am part of Generation Z, I often understand references only for 90s kids. So, it is possible to share certain attributes with the other generation. Especially for people born between two generations, it can be hard to be sorted into one. Besides this, you sometimes don’t want to be associated with your generation because your opinions aren’t mainstream. Of course, a generation unites lots of people, each individually and differently. It is important to remember that your generation doesn’t determine you. It is just a construct to analyse the social structures and the influences of the time you were raised.

Author: Sandra Haupt

Alcohol: pick-me-up or death trap?

An ice-cold beer or a glass of sweet wine tastes good and is fun, but can also have long term effects. Many people enjoy alcohol, be it cocktails at a party, champagne to toast on birthdays or just one beer to relax in front of the television. But people tend to forget that alcohol also has its downsides.

What happens immediately when you drink?

Alcohol lifts the mood and relaxes the body, but at the same time it is poison. After you take a sip of your drink, it only takes a few minutes until the alcohol is in your blood. Most of the alcohol is absorbed by the stomach and mouth mucosa. When the alcohol reaches your liver, it begins to break down the alcohol. The liver metabolizes 0,1 permille per hour. During this time, the alcohol already unfolds its effects in your body:

Alcohol disturbs signal processing in the brain – this is the so called “alcohol frenzy”. In this state alcohol stimulates the release of hormones that make us feel relaxed, but simultaneously, leads to miscommunication between nerve cells. The results are dropouts of motor, language and thinking skills. This leads to drunk people staggering, falling down and speaking in a slurred way. It also causes memory lapses, slowed reactions, aggression, nausea, headaches and a heightened risk of accidents. Alcohol also dehydrates the body, which leads to tiredness, confusion and disorientation. If you reached three permille it could cause life-threatening unconsciousness. Alcohol doesn´t contain useful nutrients for our body. This means that we only consume empty carbohydrates that mess with blood sugar levels and eventually get stored as fat.

Long term effects

If you drink alcohol on a regular basis,  like every day, it can have many different consequences on your body that can be irreversible. In the long run, alcohol damages all organs, causes diseases from cancer to heart attacks, and heightens the risk of accidents. The liver is responsible for breaking down alcohol in your body. If you continuously drink excessive amounts of alcohol, the liver can get infected which can lead to liver cirrhosis, which means that the organ gets hard and shrinks. Detoxification is no longer possible, which also affects the rest of your body. Other than damaging the liver, alcohol can also lead to brain damage, cancer of the liver, mouth cavity, esophagus, throat or gut, as well as inflammation of your stomach or pancreas. Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to myocardial disease, high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia. Besides physical damage, you can also get mental impairments such as depressions or changes in your personality which can manifest in irritability, unreliableness, restlessness or anxiety. Also, what many people don´t know, alcohol can lower your sexual potency no matter the gender.

So… should we ban alcohol forever?

I´m not telling you to never ever drink alcohol again, but would like to create awareness. Does it really have to be a beer every evening on the couch or could it be an apple spritzer or non-alcoholic beer? You can go out with friends and have fun even if you´re not completely drunk.

It´s not about bans – it´s about doing something good for your body.

Author: Amelie Biedermann