Finally, some good news from the oncologist. Well, sort of. The terms good news, and oncologist don’t exactly go hand in hand.

The next step in my wife’s treatment will be stem cell therapy, which is what they call a bone marrow transplant these days to make it sound less threatening. We know the date. September. October at the latest. Progress is great, don’t get me wrong, but I would be lying if I said we weren’t hoping for more time and normalcy, a chance to catch a proper breath after the failed chemo and long months of pandemic-induced isolation.


How does writing fit into a person’s life? Is it a hobby, a passion, a compulsion — there’s usually little difference between the two — a way of living, a habit, or perhaps a mindset? Often it’s all of those and still not enough to fit into anything well. Least of all, a life. Other things come first; family, relationships, health, obviously money (the dirty word in the art world). And dare I say happiness? Too lofty. Alright, forget about happiness. Household chores then. More often than not, they too come before writing.

Writers like to say that writing is…


Summer is here, and this time to stay. As evident by the air shimmering over the black asphalt, the parched grass of city parks, and the crowds of sweaty people fleeing Berlin towards one of the nearby lakes or hiking trails.

Life is good, even if slightly tense.


Never would I have guessed that something as small as a footnote could punch me in the face. And yet it did. Two quick jabs followed by a right hook. Here, this comes from Martin Amis’s Inside Story:

“An illiterate, underbred book… the book of a self-taught working man, & we all know how distressing they are, how egotistic, insistent, raw, striking, & ultimately nauseating.”

A less distressed reader would’ve noticed the quotation marks on both ends of the paragraph, softening the blow like a pair of boxing gloves. …


Ceciliengärten. Easy to miss if you don’t know how to get in. A garden walled-off by a fortress of old townhouses; tiled roofs glowing gold in the late afternoon sun; a stretch of lawn between two rows of chestnut trees; and a sizeable water fountain at the center. Happy families, everywhere you look. And, thanks to the few cherry blossoms, it currently snows pink in here.

A bit much, isn’t it? More postcard than writing material.

Treasure this mental picture, for it is how summer would look if only it had given up smoking ten years ago.

Nearly all park…


I’ve been trying to post something here for the last two weeks. But whenever I sat down to write, I got sidetracked by the sudden urge to give you an Update — not a mere lowercase update, oh no, but a proper one with a capital U — offering some sort of explanation as to why I’ve gone silent since February.

Fortunately for everyone still around, putting all that in writing proved impossible.

Don’t get me wrong. Like anyone feeling guilty, I tried.

Remember, I grew up in a catholic country. We’re pretty big on guilt. And confessions. This is…


One of the major challenges of dealing with cancer is facing the unceasing reconfiguration of reality it causes. The best example is the initial, “It’s probably nothing,” which becomes, “we need to run more tests,” turns into, “this may be cancer,” and then “It’s stage IV, and we should discuss treatment options.”

You might think that this initial reconfiguration comes as the biggest shock, the one that requires the most mental power to handle; after all, you have to face it while least prepared. The raw emotion of those early days can’t be denied, but as the treatment progresses, your…


photo by the author

Long-term wellbeing isn’t that hard to figure out. Exercise to stay in shape. Eat healthy food to feel better. Meditate to calm your thoughts, and journal to bring order to your mind. Avoid alcohol and tobacco to live longer. Stay hydrated. Save money by learning how to cook instead of ordering a takeaway. Avoid sugar. Work on skills currently in demand. Plan your budget. Invest your income. Save for retirement. Learn the seven habits of highly effective people. Cut down on social media. Get things done. Build habits. Happiness is a choice. Be like water. Work hard. Buy gadgets. Study…


What if I told you that the human pursuit of happiness is absolutely futile? That how happy or unhappy you are right now is dictated not by some objective measure, but rather the result of brain chemistry dictated by your genes? That evolution saw it fit to make us neither too happy nor too unhappy, but instead restless and hungry for more?

This argument comes not out of some fatalistic conviction but because scientific evidence points to the fact that both our baseline happiness and the bounds within which it fluctuates are determined by the chemical balance in our body…


In real life, the grand chain of events goes more or less like this: And then, and then, and then. Though our experience of time is linear, the story of our life tends to be anything but. It is, instead, made up of lots of unrelated points.

In storytelling, on the other hand, the chain of events becomes a much tidier: And therefore, and therefore, and therefore. This is because great stories indulge our inner obsession with patterns. …

Sebastian Hetman

Writer. Editor. An avid reader. Thinks too much. Writes about human nature and the stories we tell ourselves. Cooks. The owner of Twitter’s most beloved desk.

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