Tag Archives: Christmas

Christopher

When the men hammered the head of the fish, the boy screamed, crying. In the short time it had lived in his bathtub, he had grown fond of the big swimming creature. He’d named it Christopher. It’s understandable that the boy loathed the act of his uncles. But our Christmas meal was at stake and the young emotional bond had been destined to be ignored.

It’s a Buddhist belief that if you give someone or something a name, you make a claim to that which you name. It means that young parents who, out of duty, name their newborn Pete, immediately make it their possession. But it also means that if you give your partner a nickname, this person or the aspect you named, becomes your property.

Adversely, when you give someone your name, you give that person ownership over you. And every time this person calls it, he or she summons your attention. Have you felt that? It’s an excellent sales technique and a good way to get yourself liked to call another by his name. The other way around: creating a name for yourself or your organisation, makes you graspable to the audience and by that less threatening.

It would be an act of liberty, in this perspective, to invent a new name for yourself and keep it secret. That would give you a claim to yourself that no one else has. A different approach would be to behave in a way that is not expected from your personal or family name. But the freest is he or she who detaches from all names that are given to him or her. The one who doesn’t have a name.

I would take this idea a step further and say that any judgement people make of each other is an attempt to seize something. Calling another by his or her profession, for example, or by a political preference, or cultural background has this same effect of occupation, even if you don’t attach a value to it. Even thinking it has that effect. We allow each other a certain degree of possession over ourselves by sharing who we are, but set limits as well. And by conceptualizing, we are determining our place in a hierarchy.

You could say that the idea of ‘not being understood by anyone’, something we all have to a certain degree, is a result of being judged in an inacurate way. It could be solved by giving your loved ones the names you secretly hold for youself. Yet while we give these names away and create a space for trust through which we can bond, we also hand over part of our autonomy.

As we could see in the case of the death of Christopher the fish and the reaction of his young friend, these things can have enormous emotional implications. ‘You never call me honey anymore’ means that you’re no longer taking your claim of this aspect of her that you once shared. Changing your official name is a deliberate act of breaking out from the property of your parents. The name switch of women after marriage is comparable.

A friend once called me ‘joyful sailor of dreams’. This blog is a tribute to something she observed in me. Reappropriated, as you can see, but I’m still thankful. By that simple act, she called something into life. This is what the boy did with Christopher. It’s no more than a memory now, but who knows what that will grow into?

It’s probably because I agree with this Buddhist theory that I have become a writer.

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The city of Luxembourg

Luxembourg is a fun little town.  It has a huge valley, which has long been used as a strategical defense against attackers by many different armies. In 963, Count Siegfried occupied the area to defend his wealth. Since then, it has grown into one of the strongest fortresses of Europe, acquiring the status of ‘Gibraltar of the North’. It has been occupied by the Spanish, the French, the Austrians, the Germans, the Dutch and now the Luxembourgish. It’s military capacities, including some of the fortress buildings and lots of underground corridors called ‘casemates’ have been dismantled after the second Treaty of London in 1867. To avoid future usage of the city for war. That makes the city slightly less impressive to see than it used to be, but it’s still pretty cool. There are great views.

The most significant era for Luxembourg was the period between 1308 and 1437, when the powerful House of Luxembourg occupied vast parts of Europe, including the city of Prague, Hungary and Poland to compete with the house of Habsburg, which ultimately took over years later. Through strategic weddings, I suppose.

After the peace treaty of the late 1800’s, Luxembourg has joined the industrial revolutions. It is now building a significant part of its economy on banking. As a tax haven, that remains on a strategic position on the continent of Europe, it is now attracting head offices of companies such as Amazon and Skype. Meaning there are lots of rich people between the traditional Luxemburgians. That last group, speaking Luxembourgish, have a more down-to-earth attitude, but also quite some money. After all, unemployment in this country is low.

Perhaps related to the earlier dismantlement of the ‘little burrow’, the city of Luxembourg has become one of the cornerstones of the European Union, as it has been one of its founding members. You could argue that where Luxembourg was once a symbol of war, it has now become a symbol of peace.

The city has an expanding Christmas market. On several spots in town, it is now full of those little wooden stands with fake snow flying around, and romantic lights and Christmas trees. They sell various types of glühwein, cheese fondue and many other foods and beverages, including the typically Luxembourgish gromperekichelchen. Plus a huge amount of Christmas gifts. The kind we need to express our love for each other. It gets extremely crowded here in the weekend.

I am lucky that all of my old friends and family are around and available. We talk a bit about our latest news and stroll between the crowd. It’s usually difficult to see the charm of your home place, especially if you grew up there. But the longer you’re gone the easier it gets. Especially around this time of the year.

 

Downhill

“You’re my hero!” I call out to Ondrej -Zuzana’s brother- as I see his colourful appearance approach on his snowboard. He slides in zig zag, then just stands on his board legs open as if floating over the white road. He stops right in front of us. In the past half hour, I have made my first attempts to slide and brake. My capoeira past seems to support me in the quest to master this board.

It’s the first time I spent Christmas and New Year’s with Zuzana in Slovakia. People here ask about the differences in the way they celebrate. For what I’ve seen, there aren’t many. Perhaps the timing and the duration of the diners varied a little, and we never do a prayer before diner, nor do we go to church. The language of course. No, I’ve been in some Christmases around the world, and they all look alike. Family. Friends with New Year’s eve. Mine were far away.

After the short class by Kata -Zuzana’s sister- , we walk up the mountain with Fero, the dog. We arrive at a place with a spectacular view on clouds with mountain peaks rising out. A clear blue sky. Dark green pine trees are loosely distributed over the slope. A thick white blanket of snow covers the scene.  I practice once more on a lesser slope uphill, then feel confident enough to whoosh down this one without ending up in a tree. I never expected to take such a cool and long slope. I instantly get the addiction to this sport.  Fero joyfully makes his way through the snow behind me. Down, I stop in front of a little stream. Silence is only interrupted by a breeze. Snow falls off a tree to my left. Then of another in front of me. Then to the right. Silence again.

The ancient Greeks believed that the reason a stone always ends up downhill is that it follows its destiny. It’s 2014 now. It might become a year of big changes. Whatever lies in store, I feel as if it will find me soon. But not before I take another slide down this hill. Isn’t ending up at our destiny all we can ultimately do?