Uldis Pilens

Under the double bottom is the soulful one - Rīgas Laiks conversation with Uldis Pīlēns

Rigas Laiks: Let's start with, here's what. Why are you not the president of the Republic of Latvia?

Pīlēns: Why do you think I should be?

RL: No, maybe you shouldn't be, but wouldn't it be a good idea?

Pīlēns: It wouldn't be a good idea.

RL: What do you dislike about this position?

Pīlēns: Because the position of president of LR is also a civil servant position. I have already worked in bureaucratic apparatuses. I was the chief architect of Liepāja for five years.

RL: That was a long time ago. (Laughs.)

Pīlēns: Yes, but the insights gained there have not changed much, the efficiency ratio of being in any civil service position - and the president is not much different in this regard, from the point of view of the apparatus - is 30 to 70 percent. 30 percent of time and energy can be devoted to creative activity, but 70 percent of time and energy must be wasted in that inertia, in the essentially bureaucratic machine required by procedures. In case of success, it depends on the personality, 35 creative percent can be squeezed out. In my opinion, life is too short to simply spend 70 percent of your remaining life time in unproductive processes. I am not of the civil servant typology.

RL: Well, I read about those percentages in your book, and while I was reading it, I wanted to ask you how you calculate them.

Pīlēns: I'm not calculating myself, these are numbers from the information theory described by Karl Popper, which I refer to in my book "(my) entrepreneur code".

RL: Yes, to the fact that you can perceive 30 percent of new information.

Pīlēns: And everything starts from there. So, in order to perceive something new, you need 70 percent support in recognizable knowledge and 30 percent learning. It's the same with languages. If someone speaks to me in Chinese, I understand 0 percent. If, let's say, in Lithuanian, then I still perceive some percentage of what was said...

RL: And you have extended this principle from the acquisition of information to many other spheres - for example, to opportunities to express yourself creatively in the work of a bureaucratic system.

Pīlēns: Yes.

RL: But there comes a problem, a problem of quantification. Because these are qualitative processes that cannot be quantified.

Pīlēns: Take it easy, Yes? Take it easy. Maybe it's 31 percent, maybe 29, whatever.

RL: Well, those numbers don't really mean anything!

Pīlēns: They mean proportion. Maybe for someone it is as much as 37 percent, but it is still clear that it is significantly less than half. This is the weighted average percentage. There are of course exceptions. For a genius like Steve Jobs, they may be more than 50 percent, but that does not change the essence of the matter.

RL: But if we think about what the president can do, his 30 or so percent is much more than what a successful businessman can do.

Pīlēns: I think that each of us has our own task and our own place under the Sun, where we can best realize this task of our life, including in the interests of society. I think I have to do it from the positions of an architect and an entrepreneur. And in this case, the question is about the authority of the government. It's like radiation, radiation - one has it, the other doesn't. It's a little bit different plane that we talked about now.

RL: We are still looking for those planes, our conversation has not yet stabilized on any plane. Let's take a step back. You said that everyone has a task in life.

Pīlēns: Yes.

RL: How can you find out what your mission in life is?

Pīlēns: Groping, looking for where you are the most useful for society and for your own development. These are related things. How do you get yourself to the best version of your life and how can you simultaneously give something to society from that best version of your life, all the time getting closer to it.

RL: At what age did you realize what your life's mission was?

Pīlēns: The groping was long enough. According to Confucius, in your twenties you learn, in your thirties you become something, in your forties you stop giving in to delusions, in your fifties you meet your destiny, and in your sixties you focus on the essentials. Somewhere in those fifty, sixty years, you can understand what is your task in life. Before that, there is searching, error included.

RL: And you have understood what your task is?

Pīlēns: I think yes.

RL: Can this task be described in words?

Pīlēns: Well, this is, of course, a difficult question - immediately without...

RL: No running in. (Both laugh.)

Pīlēns: Well, then you should go get some wine, because it looks like you won't be able to answer those difficult questions without wine. (Go get some wine.) It is a matter of inner feeling, which is not so clearly revealed at the level of consciousness - what are your tasks in life. But I think that the subconscious mind - our deepest layers - knows this quite well, it signals about it with a lot of such helpful feelings: what brings you joy despite difficulties, where it is worth stressing, what is not worth paying attention to, and so on. And the feeling of happiness, the joy of life is that you do something where you don't care what power you use or what it costs you.

RL: But now you are describing a general typology, not your individual case.

Pīlēns: I do not know. Is the level of feeling typological or specific?

RL: Well, it depends on how you translate... If you refer to subconscious signals, then they, like all signals, have to be somehow translated in a way that the consciousness can understand.

Pīlēns: No, I think I might as well go around…

RL: Could you bypass consciousness?

Pīlēns: Yes. This means that the level of feelings - based on intuition - can be preferred over the mind - which operates at the level of consciousness in making some decisions. By the way, I also think that we are three different types of people, well, in general...

RL: Paga, there are three of you?

Pīlēns: No. No. (Laughs.)

RL: Uldi, it is important for me to know who "we" are.

Pīlēns: We, the society, in my understanding, parallel to the fact that we are divided into races and social groups and men and women, etc., we also consist of three different typologies of people in the way we perceive information and deal with what is happening around us and within us. Some are "iconographers", who need a more complete - more descriptive picture or process for the perception of what is happening. Then there are "semantics", who can capture the whole of things from an incomplete picture.. And then there are "syntaxists"..

RL: Syntacticians?

Pīlēns: Yes, who captures the order of things more from feelings, speech - from syllables, music - from a few bars, a picture or a painting from a few strokes of color. I think that I am something between the second and third, even closer to the third type.

RL: But you could hardly write a book of more than 400 pages if you worked only at that syntactic level.

Pīlēns: First of all, I wrote that book for three years. Second, I wanted to leave him three times as a completely unusual activity for me. And thirdly, it took a whole process to switch from the stressful routine to the flow, which I think I've managed in some chapters. How I drove to my Bavarian mountains, how I stayed there for three days I get into the nature and the feelings of the book's themes, while on the fourth day you feel free and one or two chapters come out in one go, so that your hand can barely write them down. And then read it yourself and wonder what and how you have said there. I need that level of feeling or, ideally, reaching the so-called in a state of flux. Then those results are the best. Then the senses dominate the mind. Although not already so that I would have no mental function sufficiently trained.

RL: But how can you trust that those subconscious signals will not deceive you, will not lead you to a dead end?

Pīlēns: Because there is practice. It's a trained thing. The subconscious mind can also be deceiving. Just as intuition can be deceiving. I like those three levels of intuition. You know what wording is intuition? There are three levels. The first, after Kahneman. Intuition is nothing more than a collection of experiences. The more you do something in a certain area and with regularity, the more intuitive you can be in that area. For example, if a fireman in a burning house tells you: jump out, then there is nothing to wait for an analyst, then jump, because his intuition, which is based regular experience can save your life..

RL: Yes, because he's been in so many burning houses that...

Pīlēns: Well, in a similar way, for me as an architect, understanding the meaning of a structure or something like that is intuitive in nature. This is the first intuitive level.

RL: Based on experience.

Pīlēns: Yes. And the more you do something, the more intuitive you can be in this area. But how to understand with this understanding of Kahneman's definition of intuition, those topics that are not based regular experience? If I had never founded before companies and had never been in business? Now, when we are already thirty-fifth or sixth, intuitively (in Kahneman's sense) we can feel where the risks are greater and where less, because of experience. But what is it that made it possible not to make mistakes, to be relatively long on the path of business success - it is something deeper.

RL: But you would also call it intuition?

Pīlēns: Yes, but then it has a different wording. It is subconsciously driven. And our subconscious is smarter than our conscious mind. The level of feelings.

RL: Do you have it?

Pīlēns: To us.

RL: No, now you say "we are smarter".

Pīlēns: For all of us. Only one part of us does not know how to work with these feelings and we allow consciousness to block and control all the time, thus often leading to wrong decisions. But if you learn to recognize the feeling in yourself when you have to trust those feelings, and under which side conditions you can come to it more often, then it's okay. Learning to direct the energy of intuition, instinct and the following mind in one desired and non-competing direction - that's the thing.

And then there is the third level of intuition, the deepest. It is the depth where that soul is already knocking. So there are those three levels, or as the author of the U theory, O. Sharmers says - learned knowledge, knowledge gained through experience - it is both external, physical and emotional experience - and then there is knowledge that goes beyond our self. And it is the ability to get into a state of flow, when your consciousness no longer controls, but only participates as an assistant in the processes guided by intuition.

RL: Would you say that you can freely enter and exit the flow state?

Pīlēns: Yes, I've been doing it since 1976. I know...

RL: You didn't come there by chance...

Pīlēns: Of course, it can happen regularly, that you happen upon it when you least expect it, yes.

RL: Yes.

Pīlēns: For example, when there was the first concert in memory of Andrejs Žagars. Well, music is one big catalyst for me. And Macata played there Remove. The concert was almost over. I had already messed around for a long time with something that is very important to me. In particular, the inheritance matter was important to me. I took a long time there and such. And suddenly in that Macata Remove at a time...

RL: You saw the solution.

Pīlēns: … there is a solution! Simpler than simple. Clearer than clear. Here he is not, and here he is. Jump. It's not like I gradually arrive at a solution. And in a similar way, I have made business plans on napkins in some pubs or airport lounges. Similarly, I have written about four, five chapters from that book.

RL: Yes, but this is already an example of the fact that you don't enter there deliberately, but just happen to you. Something clicks and you fall for it...

Pīlēns Yes, of course it doesn't always happen that way. It can also happen completely unintentionally, but in principle...

RL: So you have the experience of consciously entering and exiting the flow state?

Pīlēns: Yes. Exit is easy. This state of affairs simply cannot last long. It's like you can't stay underwater for long, you run out of air. You just get kicked out.

RL: But how do you get into that flow state?

Pīlēns: No, you can't choose it - I'll go into a state of flow at eight fifteen. It can't. But I can consciously prepare. I am constantly preparing myself for the moment when those elements will come together to take advantage of that moment. And I can recognize their state - just like before I sneeze I know I'm about to sneeze.

RL: Vizma Belševica in conversation with Riga Time once said that honest people have no subconscious. Could you relate to her statement in any way from your own experience?

Pīlēns: Well, at first, in denial.

RL: So she didn't understand what she was talking about?

Pīlēns: At least I can't immediately understand what she meant by that. It seems to me that the subconscious is much smarter and more honest than the conscious. Because in consciousness, which manifests itself through thinking, language, we put constructions. When talking, for example, I combine words so that you understand what I want to say. The question of whether I manage to put the level of feelings into those combinations, I can't tell... Maybe she has it differently, I don't know.

RL: I think she's subconsciously thinking like a double bottom... Well, since the underground suitcases had a hidden bottom. Being a very radical person in various aspects of her life, she says: an honest person does not have such a double bottom. But most of that double, invisible bottom also lives, right?

Pīlēns: I would like to say that the saying of Gorky or attributed to Gorky, which I have quoted a lot, comes to my mind now: “Находяс на дне, очень стук снизу”. Because there is another under that double bottom.

RL: Laughs.

Pīlēns: This is the soulful one. As I have an architect's education and an engineer's nature, I know well that a normal structure in harsh and changing climatic conditions - like life itself - cannot exist if it is not made of for thermal cameras. We cannot exist without climate-appropriate clothing, which is our second, third skin, and a normal person, I think, cannot be a person at all without this double or even triple depth of his inner being. It would go against everything that is my belief, what I read about here and...

RL: Everything that you and Juri are selling here for money to the masses of working people.

Pīlēns: Also without money.

RL: Well, whatever, but to what you preach. But I really like that engineering image of man as a multi-chambered being. Hence my question, which, in my opinion, is also important in the theory that you and Juris preach. What makes this multi-camera man one?

Pīlēns: Soul.

RL: Well then, let's drink to get to that soul today.

Pīlēns: Yes. (Both drink.) No, there's a whole bunch of different things…

RL: Then let's go step by step.

Pīlēns: We can, yes. (Laughs.)

RL: One way to go step by step is to go back to history. How did you, while doing a successful business, suddenly become interested in a certain theory that explains this business? That is, it explains not the key to success, but its essence. How has it happened?

Pīlēns: Which theory are you talking about?

RL: For example, about the theory "U".

Pīlēns: The "U" theory is no longer a theory in that sense. This is a practice I have been using since 1976, when the Theory of U was not yet written and when I was sent to the Bauhaus Academy to study. Then I realized that the entire training methodology of the Faculty of Architecture of the Riga Polytechnic Institute at that time, which was required of me in Riga, was completely unusable in Weimar.

"U" theory means in practice learn to respond appropriately to the stresses of the external world. It describes a method of learning it and is a real, practical thing to do. And then you are essentially able to combine these "cameras" of your consciousness, subconscious libraries and even deeper libraries into one energy stream to get a result.

RL: So it was your experience that you can use non-linear thinking techniques to gain power from something hidden within you?

Pīlēns: Yes.

RL: And it was a purely intuitive understanding that you came to without any practical advisors?

Pīlēns: The practical advisor was life. Let's say if you had a difficult childhood plus some other health problems that force you to go to the hospital for a long time, away from your usual social environment, this is called desirable hardship. And it trains not only willpower, the ability to mobilize the will, but it also gives you a method to deal with things when the outside world seems to be unfavorable. But in reality, she is beneficial, because she actually matures you, makes you more resilient. She is also the advisor.

RL: But before you were faced with trying to articulate it in some kind of theory or presentation, how did you understand what you were dealing with? You gain strength, find…

Pīlēns: I will make the question easier for you. I couldn't help but write that book, it was an inner need. And I will most likely not write the second book. Yes, I spent three years on it; yes, I needed discipline, mobilization of will, time, but I couldn't not write him. Because if we talk about “preserving the species”, I thought that what I experienced in or around business was worth passing on. If that book is useful to three people, that's okay. Now, hearing the reviews, I see that she is useful not only for three, four people.

RL: Yes, I am ready to believe that. But how did you manage to connect to your deepest layers at a time when you didn't have any theoretical tools to describe it?

Pīlēns: Thanks to the training practice I got to know at the Bauhaus University. How it happened - in the morning, the teacher takes all the students to one of the undeveloped corners of Weimar, most often the center of the old town, for a more complex context. And they say that you should design an office building on this corner with apartments on the upper floors, shops and service areas on the first floor, with driveways, parking spaces, of course, respecting the historical context, traffic flows and urban construction situation. The project, which must be submitted in two days, consists of all floor plans, characteristic sections, facades, functional diagrams with details of the most important constructive and architectural nodes, then also technical-economic data on quadrature and cubature. I call it the “lemon squeeze method” in my book, because after two days you have given up all your physical, mental, and sometimes soul power to even tackle the volume of the task at all. Where else with quality content. But that can also be learned and learned to prepare for such extreme will mobilization tasks.'

And you have two days, get that project ready. And if so many times, regularly throughout the study period, which means that you are being mobilized all the time. If you are not a complete idiot, then you start looking for how to survive under such conditions, with what methods you can prepare yourself internally to deal with things that you do not and will not know until the last moment, you will have a very short time to draw a project. You have to find a method to get that shot, so that at the right moment that combination of feelings and knowledge in you will give you the desired result.

RL: I can see how this helps in architecture. But since you describe business as a creative activity, it arouses in me... let's not say a contradiction, but arouses interest. Because you might think that entrepreneurship is a destructive activity.

Pīlēns: Business is no less creative, I would even say, even more creative than architecture and more creative in its complexity than painting, graphics, sculpture.

RL: Why do you consider entrepreneurship a creative activity?

Pīlēns: Let's start with the fact that the picture is white before blurring. Similarly in business, or at least in what we have been doing. In 1991, there was no UPB. There were also not many group companies, practically all of them were created from scratch. To imagine that I will now create something that will last for 30 years... well, you can imagine, but illusions die first, as soon as we face reality. I didn't have any economic education, I didn't have a financier's education, I had an architect's education. How can companies be planted in that specific economic landscape that did not exist yesterday, but which today due to their size or influence could be compared in Latvia or at least in the region systemic?

RL: I really liked your autobiographical note that you and your friend initially thought that if you made projects for five private houses, it would already provide you with a good enough life.

Pīlēns: This was according to our level of understanding at the time of what a builder plus an architect could do with one collective action. It was a scale we understood. At the time, we could not have foreseen the scale we have reached now. In any case, we have ended up with something complicated, not knowing ourselves, presumably in butter, and creating companies implanted in the economic landscape without any prior knowledge. By that I mean, just as a painting, a building or any creative product is created, a company is also created from scratch.

RL: Architects have to serve the client's interests, therefore they are people of the service sphere. What do entrepreneurs serve? What interests?

Pīlēns: Exactly the same, but in a different way. Their customer is the market.

RL: But the market is a complete abstraction!

Pīlēns: Well, well, it can be society, it can be groups of society, groups of individuals, whatever.

RL: Then we are all servants of each other.

Pīlēns: Yes, Nasim Taleb has such a beautiful saying that only a philosopher in the first category can feel truly free, who does not earn money, but spends from the accumulated properties of his ancestors. Everyone else who makes money in any way depends on market conditions. In this case it is service... Bill Gates may be free in one section, but in another he is of course a servant because he has an income.

RL: It's an interesting point of view. It turns out that there are many more servants. Everyone serves something.

Pīlēns: We are a big society of servants in the sense that we serve each other, help each other to make life easier, receiving more or less adequate remuneration for it. Therefore, we are not absolutely free in our choice.

RL: When I mentioned that entrepreneurship is more destructive than creative, I was referring to the idea of creative destruction without which new fields of endeavor do not emerge. What have you demolished? Where is the disruptive side of your business?

Pīlēns: You use the juicy aphorism of Schumpeter, who in other words expresses the same negation of negation.

Well, you see, even with our MB Group concrete production technologies, which were new in Latvia at that time, we have demolished a very large part of the old inefficient technologies and methods that existed until then, which were used in construction until the end of the 90s. This means that this unproductive business goes into history.

RL: But is the blandness and extreme unaesthetics of the buildings built with this new methodology...

Pīlēns: (Laughs.)

RL: …don't you ever get confused? Of course, now you can quickly blow up any barn, put some things there and it looks like a building.

Pīlēns: What is your standard of beauty for buildings? What are you measuring?

RL: Well, here I yield to the influence of old Neiland, who thinks that Palladio is a barn with a few columns in front.

Pīlēns: I know both Neiland and his theory and practice. We have done enough things together when we were young, but I have a completely different path.

RL: But when creating a new way of making buildings out of panels, you didn't care about beauty, did you? Efficiency is important to you.

Pīlēns: No. We don't have any technology that can't provide a beautiful result in my understanding. None.

RL: So this factor is important to you. You don't want to harm the environment of consciousness with objects that flash quickly.

Pīlēns: Well, we have built supermarkets...

RL: They are monstrous, conscience-injuring buildings, comparable perhaps only to military barracks of some kind.

Pīlēns: Well, military objects can also be extremely beautiful - both here in Liepāja and elsewhere in the world.

RL: Well, well, there are.

Pīlēns: We have now gone a bit into the evergreen forest with those standards of beauty, because, you see, what's the matter: at no time has architecture made up more than two percent of the total mass of construction. This means that at all times structures are largely non-architecture and only the most outstanding become something that can be ascribed architectural superiority. And even less percent, zero point something, are such structures that can be called works of art. It's the same with clothes and everything else. Therefore, there can also be beauty in the construction of supermarkets. Moreover, it is no longer just about visual beauty. Process organization, functionality is also beauty. Let's say when you enter some interesting, new restaurant or hotel concept, where the process organization itself, which is a business section, can be beautiful.

RL: You are one of the images of a successful businessman in Latvian public space. What's the main thing you've lost in the thirty years of building and maintaining this image?

Pīlēns: Thirty years.

RL: From my life!

Pīlēns:Yes. (Laughs.) The rest is just a benefit. The experience is fantastic, the opportunities to express yourself are fantastic. The need to prove, to overcome difficulties builds your character... Because I don't want to say that I have lost anything, except for my physical thirties, which is also okay.

RL: Tell me, in your story, where you start from a blank page in 1991, did the fact that you are from Liepāja or Latvian, or a citizen of Latvia give you any comparative advantages?

Pīlēns: Well, he has given some.

RL: Could you pick them out?

Pīlēns: The first advantage is being a first-generation entrepreneur in the restored Latvia. Where you dig, there comes together There was a shortage of new technologies everywhere, and if you could keep the pace and manage the processes, then you could reach the image of a successful entrepreneur. The second thing is my early arrival in East Germany, at the Bauhaus University, where you have West Germany right there 150 km away with its radio programs, which we listened to while working on projects, and which formed a certain understanding of things. How is it for a representative of a small nation to compete in a large university and slowly conquer authority, so that in the end, after graduating from the university with distinction, they gave you an oak tree to plant near the university. You can do great things from the position of a small nation, but you must not lose your identity.

RL: Tell me, how many detailed reports about your experience in Germany did you have to write to the security authorities here?

Pīlēns: I didn't have to write. I was not even offered.

RL: They didn't even offer you?

Pīlēns: I wasn't even offered, yes. We were four students from the USSR in that group - one Lithuanian, me, two Ukrainians. That one Ukrainian said: "I am a whistleblower, so in my presence, please..."

RL: ...do not tell jokes.

Pīlēns: And it was nice because we knew how to behave in his presence.

RL: You didn't say anything about Liepāja. Has the fact that you are from Liepāja given you any advantages?

Pīlēns: Of course.

RL: What kind?

Pīlēns: During my youth, Liepāja was a rather important military city with a closed area, with a lot of Soviet sailors who were not shy to go outside from their bases on Saturdays and Sundays. Therefore, that rhythm of life was with a higher tension than elsewhere.

RL: Had to fight on the streets with those Soviet sailors?

Pīlēns: I was still a bit young, but the slightly older guys had to deal with it too. All this, of course, annoys you.

RL: Tell me, have any intellectual influences from Liepāja also left their mark on your creation?

Pīlēns: Of course. 2xBBM already comes from Liepāja, and under their influence I started learning the guitar. We had two rock bands at school - us and another one where Jānis Vanags, the current archbishop, played. They were a bit younger than us, but we shared the same instruments with them.

RL: I understand that you were one of the youngest city architects in Latvia when you became the city architect of Liepāja.

Pīlēns: I was the youngest city architect in the Soviet Union.

RL: Did this new position reveal a different side of Liepaja to you?

Pīlēns: Absolutely safe. You see, I have already arrived, hardened by the Bauhaus education, including the experience of studying social sciences, with philosophy books on architecture, with a lot of interesting influences. It was a fantastic base on which to start realizing those ideas. Just had to find the right tools.

RL: And did you manage to implement any of the ideas you got in Weimar? Where has the influence of Bauhaus entered Liepāja through your position as the city's chief architect?

Pīlēns: Bauhaus is a social phenomenon. That's the thing. We must not look at the Bauhaus as an aesthetic platform alone. In its basis, in its educational system, in its approach to the environment, in its approach to organizing processes, it is a social phenomenon that has not lost its activity even today.

RL: I agree.

Pīlēns: And I am a product of this phenomenon, I carry this method of approach within me. It is a method of dealing with a dynamic, ever-changing reality. And its formal side - functionalism with all its aesthetics - is only the superstructure, the visible part of the iceberg, although it is also infinitely interesting. For me, the most valuable thing that I got from that education is precisely the ability to organize the process. It has helped me both in my work as the chief architect of Liepāja, in founding companies, and in pushing some kind of political process, first in Liepāja, and then in Latvia as well.

RL: Then let's go back to the last 30 years, in which, parallel to your rise and the growth of your wingspan, some processes are taking place in the country. In other words, your success story takes place against the background of such a strange process, as a result of which Latvia as a country managed to end up in the last places in Europe in many positions.

Pīlēns: Yes, although in some positions we are also in the first places, but that is a separate story. But I don't want to avoid the question. There are several planes in which we can diagnose their problem. So, the first thing: Estonia's proximity to Finland, plus the leading people in the People's Front were economists, plus the personality of the first President of Estonia, Meri, and his value system. They were more prepared for transformations than we were. It's different in Lithuania..

RL: In the case of Latvia?

Pīlēns: Yes. One of the things was the common disaster of Eastern Europe - the transformation of the economy and property rights with the help of the certificate market. Even today, we have not recovered from this policy. Then the extremely clumsy policy of attracting lats, and several times in a row. Of course, I don't know why we had to go to such a strong lat...

RL: I understand that this was the impression of Jura Viksnins, a professor at Georgetown University.

Pīlēns: Possibly. I only know that since the first years of the lats, our purchasing power parity became significantly less competitive compared to Lithuania and Estonia. Where we as a company compete in the external space, where we had a cost price, Estonians and Lithuanians could still get a percentage of profit inside. In addition, at the wrong moment, we added lats to the currency basket. For Lithuanians, it seems that at the same time the attachment to the dollar and then the attachment to the euro, the third awkward moment, which put us in a worse macroeconomic situation on the financial side than it was for Estonians and Lithuanians. Then – understanding of economic processes in an independent country. Brazauskas understood the need to strengthen the position of national capital in Lithuania, giving an incentive to local growing capitalists to expand in this market as a base market. was born during Brazauska Maxima. At that time we had a very strong consumer association that owned all the markets. They were in a much better position than The greatest the owners of that time, who started selling alcohol. But Brazauskas and his team saw the potential in them and not only in them and actually provided a kind of green corridor for the development of the national capital... So automatically, who gets pulled along? The whole supply chain, the whole agriculture is pulling behind it, followed by the export bridgehead and long-term positions in the commodity and infrastructure chains. We followed a completely different path, the transit path, which was without any high added value. A bridge between East and West. Inflation of the financial system. Parex. Advertising reel - "We are closer than Switzerland". And now? Lithuania's far-sighted policy of industrialization and balanced development has the best results in the Baltics. sorry of course although in many places we are ahead of our Estonian and Lithuanian competitors in the export capacity of our UPB sector. It was still during Zīle when I went to the Ministry of Finance and said that now is the right time to help companies grow canceling the profit tax on the reinvested part of the profit. When the national economy is in the kind of romantic upswing we were in from 1996 to some time in 2004 and a little later, then it is the right time to give relief to companies. When we are in a phase of psychological decline – like when Reizniece-Ozola gave a tax break with her reform – it only made the budget more difficult. Because the big companies were already used to paying taxes and the small ones, if they get some kind of tax discount from the reinvested profit, then it gives the startups a little something, but that's all.

RL: But here we touch on the time when you agreed to join the People's Party.

Pīlēns: Before that, there was the Liepāja Economic Zone project, which is still viable and works successfully.

RL: So you were the central character in that process?

Pīlēns: I was quite the central character. We pushed it through with no lobbies, no kickbacks or payments. We simply came with our justice and said: if the state cannot give the city anything, then it should at least give it the tools to act on its own. Paradoxically, the Skeele government was against, but the parliament, the position and the opposition, were in favor. We got that law through by going to talk to everybody, knocking on all the doors of the political parties. And only after that, against the background of these successes, came involvement in the People's Party.

RL: And why did you agree to get involved?

Pīlēns: First of all, because I saw that it is necessary to continue to protect Liepāja's socio-economic position in the political space of Latvia. I just joined the army - I said: Liepaja's interests must be defended, and I will join the People's Party. The second thing is because conservative values were close to me since I studied West German party programs during my studies in Germany. I studied the green program, the social democrats, the Christian democrats, and I recognized the Christian democrat program as close to me, although my favorite politician was Helmut Schmidt, who led the social democrats at that time. Schmidt was an intellectual politician with a fantastic culture of argumentation, with a culture of discussion. I had never seen such a culture of political discussion on West German television. From there, the idea was formed that politics can also be handled responsibly and sustainably.

RL: But did the first years in the Republic of Latvia make you think that someone can act responsibly with politics?

Pīlēns: I think so. I think that politics can be handled responsibly, even in such situations as we are now. Especially if we look from the point of view of the future. There is such a beautiful Swiss formulation that democracy is good for bringing present needs to life in a short time. But if the whole system is concerned only with meeting the needs of the present, who will think about the future? The question is how to put this future dimension on the political vision agenda. So that the entire political strategy is not built only on cheaper tickets, higher pensions, redistribution of money, MP quotas and the like. If we only think about today, then in 20 years, today's young people will demand an invoice from us for the unfinished business.

RL: But excuse me, if we think from the perspective of the future, what would you offer instead of democracy?

Pīlēns: No, I just want to say that democracy works extremely well in a certain economic environment - for example, in Switzerland, where the average income per citizen is around 40,000, converted into euros. Every Swiss is ready to take up arms to defend such a democracy. Contrasted with Afghanistan, where it was tried to be planted in an environment that has not yet developed even to the final stage of maturity of the feudal level. By this I want to say that democracy, directly adopted from Switzerland or Germany, cannot function productively in Latvia.

RL: But neither Switzerland nor Germany have taken him over here.

Pīlēns: So how? In principle, apart from the Swiss model of direct democracy, there are many similarities in the political structure.

RL: And do you have ideas on how to change that system?

Pīlēns: No, I am not a utopian, I understand that such processes do not happen, especially when there is a weak coalition in power, where the parties stick to each other in order not to sink. My vision is: if we want to take a responsible approach to the future of Latvia, then we must create conditions for a greater ability for democratic power to manifest itself in party associations, in which non-party members are equally involved and which are able to appeal to at least 30 percent of voters.

RL: Tell me, how are parties different from, for example, gangs or interest groups?

Pīlēns: Gangs have a distinct leader and hierarchy. In parties, if we talked about liberal democracy, it is not. But the idea of liberal democracy we are currently slowly toying with their fooling around.

RL: But here you are saying not us, the office of Uldis Pīlēns, but...

Pīlēns: No, no. We, society.

RL: We, western civilization.

Pīlēns: Also western civilization. We played liberal democracy.

RL: You said that conservative values have been close to you since you were a student.

Pīlēns: Yes.

RL: Is there any political force in Latvia that represents your conservative values?

Pīlēns: No. Such was the People's Party in its romantic first phase, the first three years. That composition was very hopeful there, including the regional component, which was not there at the beginning, but when many people from the regions joined the party, they got this huge representation. And here is the interesting thing: the People's Party managed to define a policy in the initial period that was able to appeal to 30 percent of the voters. In today's models, parties come together to appeal to the five or seven percent. It is not a policy aimed at the future of Latvia. Such a policy is unable to shape the political economic and social agenda currently needed by Latvia. We need a political force or an alliance that can win with 30 percent. Then the agenda is correct, because you cannot get 30 percent if you do not have a balanced policy between the regions and the capital, between the economy and the social, between culture and education.

RL: The way you think it should be is so out of touch with the reality of the moment that it could make someone lose their hands.

Pīlēns: On the contrary, I think you should start thinking about…

RL: Creation of conservative political forces?

Pīlēns: No, no, no. There is no point in founding a new party, because a psychological break has taken place in society, when the constructive part of society, which is capable of thinking about tomorrow, does not join parties. Because that thing is so degraded. This means that the non-partisan mode should be activated in the electoral system.

RL: Does this mean changing the electoral system?

Pīlēns: Also, but not necessarily. We cannot change the electoral system of next year today. But if there are politicians in the parties who understand that with their current vision they will at best get over the five percent barrier, then it would be reasonable to do the same as we did in Liepaja in 1996, when all political forces had given up on the hopeless situation of Liepaja . We, entrepreneurs, told the parties: hey, we're making a common list! And the parties gave their legal niche to a list made up of party people and businessmen, and this combined list got 9 out of 15 seats.

RL: But help me understand that nonpartisan model nationally. I can still imagine it on a city scale, but I can't anymore on a national scale.

Pīlēns: This means that the party association is saying: we are opening up our legal structure to non-partisan activists.

RL: You think that what you call the constructive part of society would be ready to be non-partisan activists?

Pīlēns: Yes, if they are not forced to join one party or another, to accept the ideology, program and hierarchy of the party.

RL: Would you be ready to be a non-partisan activist yourself?

Pīlēns: I already am; I have never been out of politics. It is not necessary to sit in the Saeima.

RL: No.

Pīlēns: A similar thing was done by the former Chancellor of Austria, Kurtz. Some four years ago, he said at his party congress: “You nomenklaturaschiki,” I'm vulgarizing a bit, of course – “you now stand by the cart. We cannot win elections if we do not give our mandates to non-partisan experts." And they got close to 30 percent - allowing a non-party sector to appear in politics through the party niche.

RL: And you admit that there are people among party leaders in Latvia who might be interested in doing something like that?

Pīlēns: But, of course, if he is in danger of not entering the Saeima, such parties, seeing their ratings, could be interested in such an offer - purely out of their party egocentrism. On the other hand, if the parties do not do this, then populism will take over Latvia in the new elections as well.

RL: And populism is the pit in front of which Latvia is currently?

Pīlēns: Yes, but not only that. Look how we've wasted money in that pandemic. Countless hundreds millions spent.

RL: That's quite a lot.

Pīlēns: Not only is it quite a lot, but it is a very irrational waste of money. I know that companies are being supported that would have died of natural causes without the whole pandemic. There are companies that adjust their activity to continue receiving this benefit. It is unhealthy. This reduces Latvia's competitiveness in the future.

RL: What is the main root of Latvia's political and economic problems?

Pīlēns: The insufficient quality of the collective state of consciousness.

RL: Well, please decipher it for me, word for word. The quality of collective consciousness - I think it's a fiction.

Pīlēns: All social formations and their political economic models have always tried to find the best balance between the individual and the collective. At one end is communism, where collectivism prevails, at the other end – anarchism, where the individual dominates. And then there are the other political forces, systems and models that try to find a balance between collective and individual needs.

RL: Let's assume.

Pīlēns: If our leaders have a low level of individual consciousness regarding the vision of the future, then they also do not communicate it and a high collective consciousness cannot be formed. We have already effectively lost the concept of "state" in a whole series of topics, for objective and subjective reasons. Well, objective in the sense that we have given all decision-making power to Brussels, it was our free choice. However, the new statehood also needs to be dealt with, but we have created an economic system that is not self-sufficient. We are a dependent system. If it is communicated on a daily basis, leaders with a high level of awareness of the state's future cannot emerge from it.

RL: You want to say that currently there are people in leading public positions with poorly developed individual consciousness?

Pīlēns: I don't like the wording 'underdeveloped'. But with a consciousness that does not correspond to the development perspective of Latvia at that time.

RL: But why don't you like that I call it developed land?

Pīlēns: It is from which point you look.

RL: Then we look from the perspective of the future, as you propose.

Pīlēns: Then I would like the wording "with insufficient".

RL: With underdeveloped.

Pīlēns: Simply with insufficient awareness, we put "developed" aside.

RL: In other words, there are people in leading positions in the country with insufficient individual awareness.

Pīlēns: With an insufficient level of awareness, which is necessary for Latvia's future.

RL: But this is a politically correct way of saying that the country is run by fools.

Pīlēns: No, that's not what I said. What I am saying is that we must go the path of evolutionary, not revolutionary development, and it would be good not to artificially slow down these processes. But the nation's leaders, who are less prepared for the great challenges of the future than the nation itself, act as a brake. In all periods of history, as I also teach in my lectures, a high level of individual consciousness affects the collective level and pulls it up. It is similar to foreign languages. I was in India, and there had to speak in English. And usually for Indians, their English is relatively poor, and after a while you realize and are surprised that you speak very poor English yourself. But then you meet an English couple right there on the path, and your language immediately soars higher. What I mean by this is that you have to talk to the public in a slightly more complicated language than they understand. But we don't pull that collective consciousness up.

RL: On the one hand, it sounds like a commercial for your classes.

Pīlēns: We have a full course, so you can…

RL: So the commercial is redundant. (Laughs.)

Pīlēns: No need, yes.

RL: On the other hand, it sounds like a hypercritical attitude towards those currently in power.

Pīlēns: It already sounds like it's closer. I would like to say it is warm.

RL: Then, in principle, the country could be saved if you and Juri had the opportunity to raise their individual consciousness to the top.

Pīlēns: Some politicians have visited us, and after that they do not look bad at all, neither in their actions nor when communicating with the public on television or anywhere else. Could be more, yes.

RL: But you see, here you should still show a certain example of selflessness and patriotism, and despite the fact that the courses are filled, you could make an exception for the state leaders and offer them such a special opportunity to raise their level of consciousness.

Pīlēns: It is not the case that civil servants are not taught such courses.

RL: For civil servants - yes, but we are talking about the highest echelon of the state apparatus. Maybe you should make it an object of your care. For your church!

Pīlēns: Well, I don't know, I don't know... Let's change the subject.

RL: (Both laugh.) No, I wanted to bring him to some kind of result...

Pīlēns: No, you understand, this issue is very serious and you can't just criticize the government. The state's ability to think about the future already depends on its composition: legitimacy and authority on the part of the government and the ability to co-responsibly assume its role on the part of society. And right now we can't provide either, that's the craziness. It is the utter madness that we are unable to think even in terms of species conservation.

RL: Are you calling entrepreneurs or people or what?

Pīlēns: Well, in this case, what I consider necessary to preserve: it is the people, the nation, the society and the state.

RL: Talking to people who were active in politics and para-politics in the 1990s, it became clear to me that no one, except in a few rare cases, admits their mistakes in retrospect. We politicians did what we could. There was pressure from the people, some other pressure... No one made a mistake. Can you take a critical look at your own involvement in it all?

Pīlēns: Of course. If I had had the wisdom of today, I would have stood much, much more aggressively for the values I stand for. On regional policy, for example.

RL: And what else would you have stood up for more strongly?

Pīlēns: Well, I don't know how we could have avoided the degradation of the People's Party, in fact, its founder must take a lot of responsibility there. But such a conservative party, as it was at the beginning, would be extremely useful in these times - a party with a very wide representation, both regionally and intellectually, as well as with the involvement of civil servants. Then we would be in a completely different position. But it is what it is. And if conservatism has now taken over in its flag a party in whose actions and attitudes I see more features of anarchist than conservative politics, then, of course, the concept of conservatism in Latvia has been degraded for a long time.

RL: You call New Conservative anarchist?

Pīlēns: Well, I haven't found any conservative elements there yet, but there are enough anarchic elements.

RL: I would be very grateful if, now that we have covered many topics, we would return to what clarity you gained about your life's mission.

Pīlēns: Oops.

RL: So at some point you intuitively understood what your life's mission is. I would also like to reveal my mission in life. I am a lost middle-aged man who comes to you for advice. What should I do, what should I do? Well, except that I should come to you and Jura for lessons.

Pīlēns: I think that would help.

RL: No, of course! (Both laugh.)

Pīlēns: You could find your life's mission! (Laughs.) I think that my task even today is to direct some kind of processes that seem meaningful and valuable to me. Would it be the Institute of Integral Education, which we once created with Juri, or Ola Foundation, what we now we are doing it with Ilzi.

RL: Sorry, how does the Integral Institute differ from Egg fund?

Pīlēns: The Integral Institute is an educational unit that deals with educational programs under the leadership of Jura Rubenis. Ola Foundation is an infrastructure project, a complex of premises, a home integral education programs, but not only. It will also be home to art, music, philosophical discussions, cultural and educational programs, and also a place of fashion and gastronomy. There's a lot more inside.

RL: But all this is still in the planning stage.

Pīlēns: No, the building will be ready soon. Sometime very soon there will be a reception committee and all that remains is to get it all started.

RL: I know that there are five million unoccupied square meters in the center of Riga. The fact that a building is standing does not mean that something is happening in it.

Pīlēns: No, obviously, but that building is a manifesto. Also from the point of view of architecture, functionality.

RL: Do I understand correctly that in cooperation with Juri your idea has grown and the Institute of Integral Education has already turned into a small particle in your big...

Pīlēns: No, by nature I am a developer of complex projects, concepts, I am interested in developing things and putting them on their feet. And the Institute of Integral Education is placed on a very stable footing economically, in terms of management, and organizationally. He will also have a home soon.

RL: So to say, this is done, let's move on.

Pīlēns: Let's move on, exactly. Ola Foundation is the next level, more complex…

RL: I'm sorry, I read the opening post or manifesto of olafoundation.lv this morning and thought: well, just like in any utopian movement, horizons must first be marked - in principle you cannot reach them, but let's mark such a horizon. Tell me, are any of these words ready to turn into real events, processes?

Pīlēns: Of course, a lot.

RL: If it's not a secret, maybe you could lift a corner of that curtain?

Pīlēns: Currently, resources are focused on building infrastructure. Once the home is ready, resources are put into action to bring this free home idea to life. And then those programs go. The Institute of Integral Education with its own project has already been launched. Art topics will open immediately, as well as music projects, discussion room.

RL: Tell me, has your involvement in political life brought any advantages to your business?

Pīlēns: If you mean the primitive, cost-effective level, then to say absolutely not...

RL: That wouldn't be fair.

Pīlēns:It wouldn't be fair, yes. Involvement in politics as an entrepreneur has certainly given me the opportunity to get acquainted with political thinking, with processes on the timeline, with the speed with which issues are resolved. It allows you to profile your company based on these factors. You can understand that there are such concepts as "political revenge". All this turned out to be very useful, also when making decisions to enter the export market, which has been the core business of our company for a long time.

RL: In what way did this experience help you achieve that UPB building a building for the State Security Service?

Pīlēns: First of all, if you have been operating for 30 years with a relatively clean slate, if you can say so, then it is clear that you enter the category of the few companies that have a so-called industrial certificate. Secondly, if you have a sufficiently wide range of competences - from project management to concrete technologies - then there are not that many companies that can provide it. Thirdly...

RL: Paga, there is only one such company in Latvia?

Pīlēns: No, not one, but not many either. Now, after all the scandals that have been... There are now only two applicants for the Liepāja prison: Citrus and UPB. Both have these certificates. And thirdly, of course, in order for you to build such a large building, it would also be complicated from the point of view of project management, you must have both managerial competences and the financial ability to manage processes and fulfill all obligations with a guarantee. So that the bear of happiness has not walked next to us.

RL: No, the concern is not about the lucky bear, but about having to settle accounts with the country's political leadership in some publicly invisible way in order to become a…

Pīlēns: What is currently happening in the construction industry with the rise in all material prices, the rise in energy prices, the non-functioning of global supply chains, the availability of labor under the conditions of Covid regulations is a very serious challenge from the management point of view. Believe me.

RL: I admit that so. In closing, I can't help but ask some of what I think are important questions about consciousness. Tell me, is it possible for you to know for yourself at what stage of development your consciousness is?

Pīlēns: If we take the book "God 9.0", there is such a block of questions at the very beginning. You can go through them and find out which of the nine levels formulated by Ken Wilber you are.

RL: And what level are you at?

Pīlēns:I'm at an okay level. (Both laugh.)

RL: Okay, so you're going by Ken Wilber's classification...

Pīlēns: No, it was just interesting to me. I don't want to categorize myself anywhere, but it's interesting to me that someone has created a method that helps you understand a little bit where you are with your real life experience.

RL: Tell me, what role does the inevitability of death play in the landscape of your consciousness?

Pīlēns: Well, first of all, she is here.

RL: Do you reckon with him?

Pīlēns: I reckon with him. And I understand that I cannot live a single day on empty. Because that deadline… Sometime he is. And that means just wasting the day on empty…

RL: You can't afford that.

Pīlēns: I don't want to afford it. I can afford it, but I don't want to.

RL: Have psychoactive substances helped you in any way in your understanding of your conscious life?

Pīlēns: (Laughs.) Well, if wine is a psychoactive substance...

RL: There is also wine.

Pīlēns: Then the wine has helped. I haven't gone any further.

RL: Haven't gotten to ayavaska and bufo yet?

Pīlēns: No, no, no. It's not for me. I experiment with life events and challenges. It's much better.

RL: At one time, people in the northern hemisphere used drums instead of psychoactive substances.

Pīlēns: Well, drums belong to the same music. It is closer to me. For example, when I go to Germany, I put Bruckner or Mahler or Wagner in my ears for the first few days and walk in nature at a pace no higher than five kilometers per hour. Then I read in Kahneman's book "Think Fast, Think Slow" that this is the right speed... If you walk in a place you know, you don't focus your energy on your safety. If you ride a bike, your energy goes away again, you have to concentrate it. And that rhythmicity of walking is a kind of mantricism. Then you are used to everything, the music sounds in your ears, let's take it. It helps you get here (wear a hairpin) in a state of consciousness, when your subconscious shuts down, that what you need floats up.

RL: Tell me, do you have any image of what will happen to you after death?

Pīlēns: Not an image, but I have this interesting belief in recent scientific research and the realization that at some deeper level, matter and energy are the same. And if it is one and the same, then all these forms that we see here are also the same. It is similar to construction - there is a fatigue limit for that material. Even glass wears off over time, metal bends and so on. So this means that something will hold us together for some time until material fatigue occurs. But then, if energy and matter are one, we are energy.

RL: At the beginning of the conversation, you mentioned the soul, and I expressed the hope that maybe we would get to the soul. Does the concept of "soul" have any meaning in your ideas about what holds you together?

Pīlēns: I think so.

RL: Is it the soul that holds you together?

Pīlēns: Yes.

RL: And then after death, not the energy will remain, but the soul. Or is the soul also energy?

Pīlēns: The soul is something greater. I think that the soul is essentially the same for all of us.

RL: Ah, you are an Averoist.

Pīlēns: Well, I don't know all those names. (Both laugh.) But I trust that when you are gone, the energy remains. How that energy, that great soul of the world shapes us for further events, is no longer up to us.

RL: Here, your genetic code is present in every cell. What do you think, whether after death its energy will also carry, well, conditionally, the code of Uldis Pīlēns?

Pīlēns: No, she doesn't need it.

RL: She will get rid of...

Pīlēns: (Laughs.) Maybe. No, we are only a moment, and we focus too much on ourselves, on the eternity of this moment, so to speak. There is no need for anyone to carry the code of Uldis Pīlēns further to some other energy level. There let that energy do what that great soul wants it to do.

RL: Tell me, what is the most important thing you have realized in your life?

Pīlēns: That it's cool that I'm not the ultimate instance of everything.

Arnis Rītups talks with architect and entrepreneur Uldis Pīlēnas
The conversation was originally published Time of Riga.