Tag Archives: Connection

Social media do not a prison make, nor avatars a cage

The demonization of social media is a trend on social media. Social technology causes isolation, leads to blind consumption and causes blood and explosions. People have coined terms like iDisorder and mobilegeddon, and some even blame global environmental issues on the blind indulgence in cyber illusions. We have witnessed a collective behavioural shift and are shouting that out to the world.

I was in my adolescence during the coming of mobile phone age. Some of my classmates had mobile phones, others did not. I personally was against it. Imagine. We had that option back then. Nonetheless, I remember having a conversation with one of my teachers, where I told him that I thought it would be easier to date girlfriends with a phone than without. You could just ask their number, send them a text and go out. The thought seemed to surprise him.

Of course, there aren’t many things more annoying than people checking their phone all the time when you’re having diner, or strangers who bump into you on the street because they are not looking (this happened to me). And if it’s yourself, yes, it’s exhausting to deal with having countless pages open twenty-four seven. But I believe that’s a phase. There are barriers to overcome, and yes, that needs effort. We are forced to learn to deal with this increasing pressure of information. We need to jointly establish proper codes of smartphone conduct. We need to master our new gift.

One field of this debate where I fundamentally disagree with the main stream is on the question: is digital contact less real than physical contact? Many suggest that it is. Consider this: whose face do you see when you look at someone’s face? Does the air blur your sight? Do your eyes change their shape? If you touch? What more is it, really, than a stream of electricity from brain to brain? People say social media distract us from reality, but physical appearances equally do. Don’t we like beautiful young women more than ugly old ones? Aren’t we more likely to believe deeper voices than higher ones? People wear masks in real life, which they sometimes release on the net. It might sometimes be easier to have real contact with people on the web, because distractions there have different shapes.

I perceive it almost as my duty as a writer to state that sometimes, a carefull selection of words in a text can be more physically stimulating than a kiss. What I want to say is that real contact is not dependent on physical circumstances, real contact is a joint choice. It’s about the attention you give.

The power of social media and smartphones is not that it provides us with illusions. The illusions were already there. The power of social technology is that it actually facilitates a type of getting to know each other that did not exist before. It enables us to be continuously in touch with a large number of real, existing friends. It allows us to keep building on lasting relationships all over the world. Today, that statement may not surprise you, but if you think about it, that truly is magical.

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Wielding Attention

Do you own your attention? Do I have it? Are you giving it to this text? Am I luring it?

I’m on the final two pages of my booklet. The first text, ‘Revolution’ was written in 2012. I kept it close for all that time. These papers have grown dear to me. They are turning from a living presence in my life into an artifact on a shelf. End of an era. To make our final union count, I’d like to write on a subject that matters.

Attention is our most intimate tool of perception. Think about it. A nagging pain in your knee disappears if you have a good meal. Worldly troubles fade when we fall in love. An ugly face turns beautiful once we get to know the person behind it. Our attention, more than anything else, determines who we are. And yet we are so unaware of it. So limited in our capacity to use it.

Knowledge. Beliefs. Habits. Patterns the attention follows over and over again. Until bolts of insight pierce them. Seduce the attention to flow over their borders, see them from another side. Some patterns of belief do never crack. Dissolve, at most, when their container treads the grave.

Can you watch your attention? Can you see where it goes? Can you direct it? Redirect it to a place it never went before?

If I’m frustrated in life, it is because I see how many people are not free. And don’t want to be, either. Most believe they already are. There are so few who dedicate themselves to their attention. So many just wave it around, letting it spill on places where others do before them. People in the modern world waste so much of their precious, limited attention on worthless things. If I call myself a freedom activist, it is because even if I don’t know how, I need to break that chain.

Whether something is painful or beautiful, attention will see it. Jew, muslim, atheist? Attention will be with you. We blame ourselves for looking at midgets on the street. Our attention did not judge. It just travelled, as it would, if we didn’t pull that leash. ‘Stay away from that midget’. ‘Run from the weak’. If we let it be, our attention will go where it is needed.

By giving attention to the world around, senses sharpen. They become receptive. If you give attention to your garden, it will flourish. By listening to another with care, two souls will shine brighter. Attention is our pathway to bring the world to life.

Do you sometimes hold your attention in your mind’s hands? Pet it gently? Does it stay with you?

By giving my heart to this booklet one last time, I imbue it, one last time with a desire that does not sleep. I see the scratches of my previous words, I feel my booklet push my pen, I see the black ink stick here, on this paper, for as long as it will. From a far away conceptual world, I bring down images, experiences, meaning which, when I close it, will keep living as a part of me. I try, I have to try, to testify of this potential. It’s an urge that reveals itself in the interaction with this last page.

Of course, attention is meaningless. It’s a concept, like all others. Elusive, uncontrollable. Tell another he is not free, and he’ll present to you his freedom to hit you in the face. You’re a prisoner of your own mind. Hit me. But break the wall between our cells. I want them to crumble.

Have you cleaned your attention today? Thanked it? Let it wander for a bit? Did you follow? Did it come back to you? Did it bring you something?

My last words in this booklet, better make them count. A final kiss. A final breath of us together. In a few short lines, can I still imbue it with something meaningful?

How much charge can you contain before the charge contains you? How much pain do you need, before you accept this responsibility?

Do you charge your attention with love?

Biodiversinesque

I enjoy making up new words. It’s an exploration of realms of meaning. A good new word is new territory accessible for other people too. I also like it when other people invent words. That’s why I’ll discuss Maria E. Ignatieva’s ‘Biodivesinesque’, to bring some light into this ‘blue monday’, as a marketeer once called it.

Ignatieva is a European (more or less) landscape architect focussing on urban ecology and design. In several articles, she notes that in the previous two centuries, two main styles have inaugurated globalized urban landscape design, meaning these styles were introduced in colonial territories. The first one was ‘picturesque’, a natural style in which parks look like deforested Western European landscapes, containing elements such as meandering roads and irregular terrains. Open grasslands are an iconic aspect of this style. The second one was ‘gardenesque’. This is a far more high maintenance, regular yet artistic way of designing landscapes, using a variety of exotic plant species and neatly cut hedges to convey a sense of human triumph over nature.

Biodiversinesque goes beyond both styles by integrating deeper understanding of the behaviour of natural environments into the design. The designer lets go of the imperative to imprint a thought upon the landscape. Instead, she or he shows appreciation for nature by taking vital characteristics such as ground water, local species and weather fluctuations into account during the design process. When working with nature, instead of over its back, areas have the potential to become far more biodiverse. This style allows for dynamics in vegetation patterns, since surprises are appreciated instead of being seen as messy and a lack of park management. Through biodiversinesque design, landscape architects can convey the beauty of ecological processes to the visitors of a park, while blending the urban landscape into the natural surroundings.

Reconnecting the urban ecosystem with the surrounding ones, a process that is advancing steadily in Europe, is a way to invite traditional flora and fauna back into the lives of city dwellers that may have forgotten about them. It is a public acknowledgement of the fact that not interfering can sometimes lead to better results than doing something. With her presence, nature gives us soft, subconscious education. By allowing nature back into our lives, we peacefully become it. All we essentially have to do is give it some space.

Breathshake

In the series of new names for unspoken emotions, I´d like to discuss breathshake. Breathshake is what it sounds like, a deep shaking of the breath that interferes with the actual breathing. It comes together with a pulsating fear of the loss of life, possibly that fundamental one. In fact, I´d challenge you with the thought that breathshake is a pulsating appearance of life out of a state where it is not. Appearance of emotion too. It´s probably the most terrifying fast emotion I know.

The obvious pathway to the experience of breathshake is running out of air. You can do this by not stopping with breathing out, going very deep into the water or doing sports while breathing far below your natural rhythm. The first option is probably safest. In these cases, my diaphragm starts contracting and I have the sensation of being cut off. The thought “this situation is eternal” forces itself upon me. You could call it fear of death, but I think it is a fear of never getting access to life anymore. While silence is present, a feverish tingly cloud dwells up in my upper body. I feel sweat emerge from several spots. I sense that the feeling could subdue me from the back of my neck and shut off my awareness. It never has.

Lighter forms of breathshake can occur without that I run out of air. An interesting thing that can trigger this for me is the tought of not receiving attention from a person I love. It can also happen in conversations where I feel incapable of standing up for myself the way I think I deserve. It is as if the conversation partner suppresses my self-perceived value and does not recognize my true character, or whatever it is inside me that needs to be appreciated at that moment. The parallel with being cut off from oxygen is interesting, as if human attention also is a substance we need.

The pulsating character of breathshake delivers a remarkable alteration of states of mind which reveals parts of myself to me. Fuelled with panic, short, shallow gulps of breath try to resolve the feeling of sinking away into a swamp. That experience alternates a state of tranquility and acceptance, as if the end is already there. This tranquility eventually takes over and allows my breath to deepen again. All of it happens quite quickly.

Breathshake relativizes my concerns. It can release some tensions, but it also makes me aware of my incapacity to be fully in control of myself. I am aware again that somewhere deep inside me lingers a deep desire for taking part that can become stronger than myself. The thought is humbling, but slightly discomforting too.

Conjuress of Dreams

She lives on a mountain, among the clouds. You know whom it concerns. She has us all under her spell. Let’s hope her intentions are good.

It was a hot night when it came to me. Do you know them? Those nights where dreams and wakefulness collide. My life had been a mess so far. I lacked touch. Nobody likes to work behind a screen in a multi-storeyed prison for the soul. Not me at least. I realised that many years later. Things had come alive.

I lived in a dark house. It wasn’t big, but even so there was a room I didn’t thread for years. Filled with memories, filled with mess. Remnants of a life I’d never asked for, yet I could not part with them. A fellow knocked one day. White beard and on his head a black Jaguar’s face. He wore long layered garments: black, white and grey. Sinister though he may have seemed, a spark lit up his eye. There was no formality, no respect and no hesitation. He entered my forbidden room; despair pulled me in after him. He showed me things, these objects of the past. He showed me pains that were long gone. The door was open, just like that. No way could it be shut.

I woke up, my brother called. My mom had died that night. Some force tried to turn me inside out. Filled with guilt I cried about that dream. I cursed this wicked man in robes for opening that door. Hated her on the day she left, for all that she had done.

But how can we be sure? A woman with a gift like hers is bound to go corrupt one day. If she owns us and the darkness owns her, then are we not all doomed to befall?

Dreams are no strange thing to me; I have them all the time. But there was something about this one that caught my attention. Some light that it expressed. It was a vividness inside. It revealed a power hidden not just in the dream, but in my life. Does it matter if I describe the events to you? I honestly don’t know.

A day like all others. I was walking down the street. I live in the city, you see? Picture the streets. Take a city where you feel at home. My sister called, I picked up, she said I sounded strange. Different. More powerful or something. I told her it was because of the dream I had that night. Just like I’m telling you now. She asked what it was about. But I did not answer. She kept asking. What difference does it make? My dream is my dream and it means to me what it means to me. You’d be distracted by the words, by the shapes, by the feeling. You’d give it a twist of your own. But the dream was not yours. I could perceive beyond these shapes and thoughts. Not that they weren’t there… at all! But my relation to them was different. Lighter. I could see through tables and mirrors, through layers of reality to look deeper inside. A different kind of knowing I would say, more visual. I do believe that I saw God that night.

My brother sounded manic that day. I wouldn’t know how else to call it. And do you see? He’s in a hospital now. Delusions of the severest kind. Drawing orbs on walls where he may not, with little pictures inside sometimes. The words he says make little sense. One moment everything is beautiful, the next moment everyone is evil, and the next… Nothing. He sits there; silently, unmoved. For hours! I cannot stand to see him that way. I hope he’ll be better again. It started with that devilish dream.

Should we take it from her? She is doing harm. Have you seen how they ended up? Have you seen them all? There are many. Have you followed them? Do you understand? We should take it, before it’s too late.

It takes courage to cross the jungle on your own, especially for a girl. Courage and some madness perhaps. But I did. The journey was long, timeless it would seem. Past snakes and monkeys. They were listening to me. They sometimes did what I wanted them to. Yet they attacked me. Sharp teeth. Then I fought them off, in rage. They’d stop when I calmed down.

Some trees were impossible to chop. I’d have to climb sometimes. Grab lianas and swing from branch to branch. I was determined to cross these woods and would. I’m sorry for the plants I hurt, for the bushes I broke, but I had no choice; this was a one way road. Then, the landscape changed. It went up. I still don’t know what all these cables were, more and more of them, until all my eyes could see were thick black ropes, all pointing to the horizon. I followed them.

A triangle rose as I approached. It grew bigger and bigger and at some point I must have realised it was a pyramid. A voice when I came near: “enter only when you are ready, else you’ll burn in light”. Isn’t that a weird offer? I came all the way, crossing all this trouble, and then this voice offers you a choice? Of course I entered! I could not even consider the question, so full I was with purpose and drive.

It was a maze inside. Challenges alternated. I saw flames. I felt them. Gentle changes in the pressure of the air. They burned. The red flame burned my clothes. Crossing it left me bare. The green one burned my flesh and bones, the blue flame burned my mind. When I finally got out, I was alone with nothing more than soul.

I heard the voice again. “You are ready now”. I am not sure if what moved next was the pyramid or me. A blinding light shone through. It was a dream that led me here, but now I’m not dreaming anymore. I can’t wake up. This is it. This is where it ends.

Where do we look for her? We could track her traces in the skies. If she does reside in the heights, then it should be easy to find her that way.

What drives a man to take a boat and cross the Atlantic by himself? I didn’t know when I left. But I can tell you, being out there on the big blue, being out there on your own brings you an answer. The waves support a lot. Yet if I’d have to tell the truth, the biggest answers came in my dreams. I wouldn’t be able to explain why these dreams occur so intensely, but I definitely have more attention for them now. I have the time to contemplate them. Or better: I am forced to be with them.

In fact, my decision to take this trip was triggered by one dream in particular. At first I thought this dream was very clear, very literal and easy for me to understand. I had to sail and on my own. But as I lived the choice, as I sweated blood on my boat, the whole perspective changed. I did not take this trip because I understood the meaning of this dream; I took it because I had to figure out.

In the dream I stood in front of a … woman. Under her, enormous waves whirling her robes. I am still not sure if they were made of water. I cannot say. I was compelled. It might have been liquid fire, such potency I sensed in her. Many things occurred silently. Little events of my life passed by, little stories I’d forgot so long ago. Other lives, as if they were my own. She bowed, all that time she bowed opening her arms to me. And then, suddenly, she looked up and watched me briefly. Briefly though she pierced deeper than anyone ever before. Beyond my soul. One word was all she said.

“Sail”

Looking back I may have left to deal with that look. I must admit that I miss it. I’ve never seen it on earth. But it seems such things aren’t meant to last. I left, free to deal with it all. Deal with it at the four winds’ pace.

Keep trying. We’ll find her. We have to. We’ve looked for centuries. I began to doubt.

A simple question

“What is it that makes you want to wake up in the morning?”. I’ve travelled 1500 km to have this chat, prepared for hours, but of all questions I least expected this one. The question may seem innocent, but to ask this to someone of my generation is below the belt.

The truth is: I do not know the answer. And the fact that I don’t makes me feel extremely insecure. Shouldn’t I know by now? In fact, I can only admit that what I have been doing these past months, maybe the past years even, was to go on and on. Following courses, hopping locations, seeing friends, heaving experiences, writing job applications, all were ways to avoid this question.

I don’t often wake up vivid and inspired. Never did. When I wake up I want to stay in bed. In fact I am sad about that. I’d like to be a person that is constantly driven by something. Like playing piano, or painting, or protecting the environment. I’d like to believe in ideals, but deep inside, I see everything as relative.

But now, I’d better come up with an answer. Quickly! “The connection with nature. And with people.” I’m not able to lay myself bare here now because I try. The rest of the interview will be nice though. Phillip and Vivien are beautiful people and I will manage to get over my instant of panic, which, by the way, came after the first impression. I will not get the job because of my lack of German. I’ll get over that quickly. But this question has been asked. It will weaken me. Block my pen if I don’t deal with it. Gently. Slowly.

Why do we expect ourselves to be so fast?

Wodan

Fifteen men around a fire. One o’clock in the afternoon. We’re eating soup prepared by Veronica, resting from a morning of hard work. From willow branches we build walls while we burn a vast amount more. The ambiance is peaceful: we are here by choice, it’s nice to work outside together and the scent of spring is in the air.

“Wodan”. Raouls words are mine today, and mine are his. He is our guide on a biking tour through the past. Julian, Katia and Elishka live in the east, but are back for the weekend. On city bikes we are on a mountain bike trail through forest and heather. One year ago we were housemates; today it feels like nothing changed. Bound by our love for nature. We just had a picnic in the fields dancing and singing just for fun.

“We need beer”. Says Harmen. We agree that wine will not do. All the work is done. I estimate that we have burned about a ton today. By doing so, we have discovered a new campfire spot in Droevendaal, and we are not intending to leave it for the next couple of hours. It would be respectless to turn our backs on this powerful mass of coles. In one hour, we’ll get beer delivered by friends. An hour later, delicious indian food, cooked by another friend. We’ll draw in the coals. Instruments will come, and tonight we’ll be dancing here arm in arm with over twenty boys and girls.

Deep out of the grounds of the forest near Wolfheze, grow six five hundred years old oaks, locally known as Wodan’s oaks. This must be my fifth visit. My connection to them becomes more powerful every time. When we stand in front of one, its bark soft of the moss, Elishka suggests to hug it together. We do so compassionately. This group will soon fall apart again, but these Wodans, anchored, will keep nurturing our dreams with relief.

Sailing on Dreams

When you’re sailing on dreams, there are no rules. No laws. Just dreams to obey. There is no time. Everything joint. But that does not mean you can always join the breeze. There are puzzles to be solved, to wander the untold.

But watch out! Nothing is what it seems, when you’re sailing on dreams. To live in danger may be safer than was taught. There are no lessons. No fathers or sons or brothers, nor a girl or a boy. No leaders or crowd, but the sailors of dreams. Dreams are not easy to sail. When you think you do, you are far from it. And when you do sail a dream, you are closer to the black abyss than believed is healthy for you. Hold on to a dream and you crash. If you let go, you drown. There is no good way to sail on a dream. Drowning is common for sailors of dreams. And burning. Being shot in the face. Poisoned. Crushed under rocks. We lose everything all the time.

Imagine how big your children’s children’s children are now. Little gates to an enormous world. We need a telescope to see that from here. Fireworks of inflated worries burst a sailor’s dream. Trees’ roots grow into it’s skull and become a pulsing brain. Up, up, up.

Catch a dream and it catches you. Zins you in your sleep. Kins you in your creep. Watch out! Or it bins you in your deep. Know where you go, when you’re sailing on dreams, or the slow of the flow will take all that you know.