Zeitgeist coffeehouse, corner of Jackson Stree...
Image via Wikipedia

Zeitgeist is a name of a cafe in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood.  It was one of my favorite places in that rainy city. Zeitgeist, is also a word that means the spirit of the age.  There is even a global movement with zeitgeist as its name. But, I see it more as an interesting word. So, for me it’s a nice place and a nice word.

This makes me think of something, though.

Zeitgeist, or the spirit of the age, is about the feeling, mood, emotions that influence almost everything in a society in a particular of time. Well, actually it can be defined in far more complex and elaborated way, but I guess you can find that kind of definition from Wikipedia or other sources. All I’m trying to say is that zeitgeist is about things that makes us feel that we belong the present world.


And that Seattle’s cafe I mentioned earlier, Zeitgeist, somehow make me aware that cafe is one of the world’s zeitgeist. When I was in the elementary school about twenty years ago, it’s hard to find a cafe. Now, there are cafes everywhere. Cafe, is one representation of the zeitgeist of our time.

Then, it makes me think about few other things that might as well showing the zeitgeist of our present. Information technology is one of them. Today, everything needs IT and has to be IT related. Otherwise, it will be considered as less updated, or even worse, a bit obsolete. Some IT brands are even more like culture than merely an IT product or gadget (like Apple and Blackberry). As I’m writing this, I’m not in my office but stumbling on my bedroom because of stomach problem. And yet, I’m still checking and communicating with people at my office through my handset. I can’t imagine this will be normal, or even possible, if this was happened three decades ago.

Looking west on S. Washington St., Seattle, Wa...
Image via Wikipedia

Social media and creativity is another pointer for the world’s present zeitgeist. Everyone lives a world that literally connected beyond borders, and thanks to social media for enabling that. Through social media and creativity, new ideas and creative development are more easily to be spotted by everyone. I’m not referring to complex and advanced idea or inventions. I’m talking about how easily people can exchange information and idea about anything today. Look at how different people with different perspectives, who barely know each other, can have a brainstorming about a certain issue just because they use the same hashtag (#xxx) in social media.

As I think deeper about this zeitgeist thing, I start to see that the seemingly rapid acceptance on new trends we see in today’s world is in fact the existence of the world’s present zeitgeist.  K-Pop swarm in many parts of the world, or Arab Spring movement, or green initiatives are not merely big agendas thrown by big influencers. There is something that enable the quick acceptance of those ideas of political, cultural or environmental change.
Something that has dwelt in people’s heart and mind, waiting the right trigger for expression. That is the zeitgeist.
Now I wonder, if zeitgeist seems to be, borrowing C.G. Jung’s terms, the collective unconsciousness people have in their deep heart and mind; then how it will affect their ability to change their closest surrounding? How will the new social media generation change the way people work in labor-massive factories? How will the new IT familiar generations  change the philosophy in managing our cities, communities or even politics? How will cafe generations idea change the way we see things in life; like happiness, money, failures, accidents, and love?
This really makes me wonder, what will happen in my workplace, my city and who knows what else………

8 thoughts on “Zeitgeist

      1. Feel it, live with it… and one thing, of course, be critical about it…. going where the wind blows, but leave your marks on it… I think that’s what we have to do concerning zeitgeist…

  1. hmm.. depending on the context. If we talk about lifestyle, we talk about tension between our original style and the latest “fashion” in the field. If we talk about working style, we have the tension between our own work style and the latest theory or perspective in the field. That’s why we need to update ourself on what really happens in the world, and try to create a healthy synthesis with our own epistemological perspective. Of course, this is an on going process, and not a easy as I said. 🙂 Because, in my opinion, Zeitgeist is one, but has a different effect on many aspects of life. And the effects sometimes not always compatible with our own perspective or individual values. The key is to be a reflective and critical individual in everything you do. Or like Hegel said, to always live in the midst of tension and the dialectic of life. What do you think James?

    1. Yes, my friend. I share your perspective on how we perceive zeitgeist in its entirety, through a holistic but personal and reflective way. Zeitgeist of our age is generally the same, but yet, it falls into lives of different people. Thus, the experience of zeitgeist for each of us are most likely different. This is where what you called as update on reality and trying to create a healthy synthesis are necessary.

      What often happens today is that people tend to follow the impact of zeitgeist in the popular mass, and it created a massive trend. There is nothing wrong with this, but just following the trend is not necesary lead to inspiring people about what really happens in their life. In such perspective, zeitgeist become soulless. It is contradictory to what zeitgeist suppose to be, isn’t it? 🙂

  2. Because I write about change with a tinge of humor, I was interested in your post. I think that to fully know the impact of zeitgeist, it must be viewed from the past. And then the moment has passed to a new “spirit of the time.” It’s all about change.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Barb!
      Yes, I agree. The idea of zeitgeist is basically about our relation with how life is changing. Zeitgeist is the soul of change, the one that inspire us on understanding change in our own life.

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