Prague, Czech Republic

Hey all,

I am now in the Czech Republic and have met up with some of my friends. It’s been fun hanging out with them again, but the first few days in the Czech Republic by myself were pretty interesting.

While I was in Cologne, I spent my nights in cheap hotels. I wandered around the city looking for hostels but couldn’t find any, so I just settled on hotels. But as Prague is something of a tourist hotspot, it is littered with cheap and accessible hostels, so I found one quickly on the first day (albeit with the help of a hospitable Czech girl I met). Staying in a hostel I have to say is pretty awesome. It’s great to meet all these young travelers going on their own journeys, coming together in one place. I met some really awesome people while staying there, but though I like to stay in hostels I prefer the journeying to be on my own.

In Prague there are a lot of cool things to see. It’s a city infused with history, classical architecture, and all that good stuff. But despite my attempts to make the sightseeing rounds, I quickly grew bored with tourism, brochures, souvenir shops, and all the rest of that shit. It gets old pretty quickly I think. Prague would be a beautiful city if they didn’t decide to design everything for tourists.

An old church where I attended a concert.

Well turns out, there’s this hill on the west side of Prague. It’s called Petřín Hill. Atop Petřín Hill stands Petřín Tower, which is actually the highest point in Prague, and atop of which is the most stunning view in the entire city. There is a tram that goes up to the top of the hill (to a little cafe at the base of the Tower) that all of the tourists take. Well I decided—fuck that, I’m walking up the hill. As it happens, Petřín Hill is not only fucking gorgeous and a pain in the ass to walk up, but only locals know about it. Which means that it is mostly empty. So I ended up spending the better part of two days up on Petřín Hill.

Petrin Hill in the distance.

Though I wandered around a bit, I spent a lot of time on these two benches, just sitting and writing and pacing around. The benches sit in an isolated part of Petřín Hill where people rarely walk by, hidden away behind trees and foliage. It is here that over the last few days I have been doing a lot of thinking.

I have thought about a lot of things in the last few days. I have thought about the fact that in my traveling and getting away from the poker world, in a way I have reverted to my most native self. In a way, it’s very interesting for me to see how I behave differently when I am not being-for-others, as Sartre would put it. The thoughtful, pensive loner who paces around and writes about his life, haha. Sometimes I seem like a caricature of myself, and I can’t help but laugh.

I have realized that I have not loved poker for a long time. But I also realized that what poker taught me was something I truly needed to learn, and without which I would never be able to become a man. I realized that I care too much about what other people think of me. I realized that a part of me wants desperately to mean something, and the other part of me hates that I want that; that I can’t ascend above it.

A beggar in the streets of Prague, doing the traditional Czech beggar's pose.

I remember looking out the window of the train as it traveled from Berlin to Prague. I love taking trains, because unlike a plane, you never lose touch with the ground. The little towns and roads, the people ambling about on their days. You’ll probably think me strange when I say this, but I remember in this one instance looking out the window of the train as we were going through the German countryside. There was an antiquated house there, in some small German village. The village couldn’t have stretched out more than a couple kilometers. Although I looked, I could see nothing in the window or through the screen door. But nevertheless I imagined someone coming forward and leaning out the window, watching at my little train bumbling past. I imagined he would have strong arms. Tan, crackled skin. And somehow I would know that he was happier than me. Maybe happier than I would ever be. I would know somehow that he would not share this desperation that I have. This neverending want.

As I was on that stoop on Petřín Hill, I asked myself – why did I play poker? What is it that I want in the end? Is it money? Is it recognition? Is it attention? Although there’s a sense in which I wanted all of those things, they were not enough. None of them were enough, they all pointed to something else. Power, maybe? But no, power in and of itself becomes boring, unexceptional. I have had power and I still feel this desperation arising when I try to stop moving forward. It’s something else. I want to be great. Greatness is what drives me. I want to prove that I am great. But that in and of itself isn’t an answer.

It occurred to me. Why do I want to prove I am great? And to whom do I want to prove it? I thought about this for some time, and it occurred to me that I want to prove that I am great, because deep down I believe that the vessel in which I find myself is capable of greatness. In a way, I want to prove that this body, this mind, this situation in which I find myself at this very moment – is capable of great things. Why do I want, why do I need to prove that? Why can’t I just surrender the obsession, and just try to be happy? Why does the most vital part of me not give a shit about whether or not I’m happy?

Perhaps it’s that I feel if I don’t become great, that somehow I’ve squandered what’s been given to me. That I owe it to the world to be great. That with all of the advantages and assets I find myself with (most of which I have crafted for myself, but some of which, like my natural intelligence, I have inherited), with all of these things at my disposal and enough hard work, I know that I can be great. That no one believes me, but I know it’s true, and the only way to show it’s true is to prove it. In a way, that I would be some kind of a coward if I didn’t accept that duty. That if I just said “fuck this shit, it doesn’t make me happy,” and decided to move to some small village in the German countryside, that it would make me a coward.

I think of Wittgenstein.

I don’t know if there’s a way to balance this obsession with the search for happiness. Maybe there is. I will think about it.

Prague at night.

To tell you the truth, sometimes even I can’t help but find myself strange. The other night I went up to the top of the tower; I was one of the last people for the night before they closed down the entrance. I climbed up to the top. And from atop of Petřín Tower, looking out towards the city speckled with lights, I felt lonely. I didn’t expect to feel that way.

Prague is a dumb city to be in by yourself.

I will write more soon. I should have some news for you guys that should pique your interests next time. And it won’t be so emo, I promise, haha. So stay tuned!

Link to the album

Haseeb
September 02 2011
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Effective Altruist. Software engineer. @Airbnb alum. Instructor @Outco. Writer. Blockchain Believer. Former poker pro.
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