Tag Archives: Death

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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Why spiritual talk has the same root as economic talk

It turns out I crave for rationality. I’m even sad about the lack of it. Now. I see chains on people who declare themselves free. Cuffs on my wrists. We are failing on all fronts, because we could not find the exit on time. Or maybe I read too many Logicomix.

I wouldn’t straight away state that Nussbaum was wrong when she said that emotions carry important messages. They might. They probably do. No, I agree with her. It’s not for nothing that I just dug her up from my past convictions. But to blindly follow emotions is a different thing…

Anyhow, that’s not what I was going to talk about. You see, I have a fulltime job as a commercial writer now, and that has made this blog into a haven. I don’t need to care about pleasing my readers anymore. Not that I ever did. And of course I still do. But this is where I’m free. Part of me, anyhow. So I say what I want to. Ha!

No. What I wanted to talk about, or at least what triggered me to return here is once again the fact that people believe things. Two things in particular: purpose and growth. Why are we here? To grow. Become stronger. Improve. Yes. We improve.

You see, it turns out that I tend to surround myself with people who hold some kind of spiritual belief. Both my parents were into esoteric shit, my sister likes shamans. One by one, my friends convert to something. Parts of myself are trying to make me believe I’m some kind of sage in a silly society. As within, so without?

We all seem so certain. Have you heard it? Things happen for a reason. We may not always know the reason, but there is one. Really. It helps us become who we are.

But hold on. Step back. Sure, there might be a reason, yet there might be none. The truth is we don’t know. Even if the angels tell us, how can we be sure that they know? That is, once we’re sure they’re not a delusion. We cannot be sure that they do or don’t, clearly, that is far beyond us, Where that puzzle may not be a puzzle.

Surely, this fight concerns myself, mostly. It’s me struggling with my tendency to believe. I’d love to say and be certain, like I used to, that our paths are laid out, that all we have to do is sit back and walk them. Learn. Ingest the info, the experience. Fulfill and die. Yet I’m back with my old, even younger self. The mindful critic. You may say so, but you cannot know and you should accept that. In fact, the reason why you say things, is because others did before you.

So I want to plant a seed. What if nobody takes care of that seed? It dies. A death of abandonment. How many did? How many have simply perished? How many never had a child? Infinite. All of us in many ways. With a purpose? None we’d ever know about. Knowledge into oblivion.

Yet what of growth? Isn’t that what it’s about? Certainly. And what if not? Are we caterpillars emerging into butterflies emerging into spirits emerging into memories emerging into the infinite for eternity? Is that learning? It may be. It may not. More likely it’s neither.

That’s where I miss most. It may not. There’s no way around it. It’s right in front of us yet so few seem to look at it. Live it. Sooner or later we will die. Spirit faded when it got a voice, I’d say. And I would probably be wrong. I’d probably not even exist if I did. Say. My imaginary sanctuary behind this screen, probably an illusion. I’ll believe in it for now, knowing I can’t be sure.

Am I really the only one who sees this parallel? Probably not. Nor do I feel alone in it, in fact. Just a little misunderstood at times. Sure. There is a place and a time where growth exists. But to say it goes on forever… Only economists and spiritualists do that. Where will they end up, I wonder. Nowhere, likely, because they are little different than I. And I’m not going anywhere. Or I may be seduced. Unknowingly. Guess it’s better that way.

Nightmare

It’s my grandma’s funeral, yet she is standing right here in front of me. Did something go wrong? Her face is as white as her hair. We’re in a hallway at the ceremonial building of her cemetery. She’s looking at the others who are at her funeral down the hallway. She knows she should be dead. She looks confused. Then she quickly turns yellow, then also purplish. As if she’s decomposing. She falls backwards. I catch her, my one hand behind her back, the other behind her head. My arms are around her fragile body and she’s facing me now. She looks at me in agony, confusion. As if she wants to ask me what she’s doing here. There’s a morbid serenity between us. She starts vomiting. She cannot stay on her feet, so I gently lay her on her back. My moms voice is mixed with my own in a command to put her on her side so that she doesn’t suffocate. I lay her sideways, then I violently start puking as well. It is not actual puke, it’s a yellow-black decomposed liquid. It spreads over the floor, creating little stretched-out  puddles. Then a bit more, as if my bile spits death. If spurts on her feet.

I wake up in the middle of the night, unsure if she’s dead or alive. I feel sick, to the extent that I’m wondering if I am. It doesn’t go away easily. It was just a dream. Was she there? The likeness of the confusion was striking. Minds deceive, go back to sleep, I tell myself. So it gets dark again.

It dawns on me the next morning that the texts I had considered finished at my new job, got returned to me by some clients. As if they resurrected, through a will beyond me. As if I had to lay them back with care, not knowing if they would stay or disappear from my life. Perhaps the dream’s sepulchral aspect was related the Game of Thrones episode I’d been watching earlier last night. Things are never what they seem. Or maybe the dream related to the talk I had with my girlfriend afterwards, in which we spoke about her insecurities at work. A confusion which then probably reflected my own. It could even be related to a diuretic intestine problem I’m experiencing, working on my mind while I’m asleep.

But was she there?

My grandma didn’t believe in ghosts or in life after death. She told me that in the months before she died. Killed herself. She called me one day to inform me about her decision, so I went to visit her more or less weekly. Cook for her. Bond with her. For the first time in my life, really. I remember that a few days before she took her fatal drink, I had a similar, nauseating dream, less morbid than last night, in which I told her no, I wasn’t fine with her choice. I never told her in real life. My daily me respected her courage and resolve.

For many years I have romanticized death. A next state, a state of freedom. Where worldly matters release their grip. An eternal, infinite deep blackness we all carry inside us but fail to perceive. For a long time I looked upon death in the way I imagined it would look from the inside, as an experience. I’ve never believed in reincarnation, but yes, I do believe that consciousness exists outside our brain and also in dead matter. More than my consciousness shutting down when I die, I believe it will dissolve.  A part of me may have projected this romantic perception of death upon my grandma’s choice to do euthanasia.

It only recently starts to dawn on me, that, free as death may seem from the inside, it leaves a penetrating print upon the living. As a biologist I could have known. We can be poisoned by a dead brother’s body. Could it be that if a body of a dead person can make you ill, so can a dead person’s emotion? Should that too be properly cleaned?

I’ve carried the disturbing memory as a heavy weight through the day. I never knew that death, in all its beauty, can be so repulsive. Not even when watching Game of Thrones. I don’t think I’ve ever had a viler dream. Death in my dreams was usually fresh or even mystical. Not rotting and definitely not in such a way that it spat from my own guts.

She told me she hoped I’d remember her in a nice way. I told her I would. I do. I’ve wondered today if I missed signals in her instants of confusion, when she was still alive. Instants remarkably similar to her anxiety in my dream. Her question if she’s dead or alive. For a while today I seriously wondered if there was a piece of her spirit remnant inside me. Yet now that I truly tune in to that time, I remember joy, laughter and a deep calm. Her choice was made. Anything I would have tried to do to stop her would have made it harder.

It’s that calm that tells me now that it was just a nightmare. The emotion should be taken care of in me, not in her. Some proper rest once in a while wouldn’t hurt.

A holy grail

For the first time in my life, I’m walking to my grandparents’ grave without either of them being buried today. My grandma was the second one, and she died six years ago. Haven’t given myself time to go there since. Did I become a martyr of my domineering mind?

I’ve received a fulltime job as copywriter, and am starting in a few weeks. I’m letting my thousands of little (and bigger) projects go for now, and take some time off. Walk. Visit friends. Let the losses slide of my back. Early this morning I decided to go for a walk to the north. Out of the city, into the land of my ancestors. Flatlands. A deeply manmade structure which scared me when we drove here during my childhood. Flat grass, straight, arranged ditches and many little houses packed in villages as far as the eye can see. We’re in one of the most populated countries of the world. Windmills.

I think it’s the first time that I so thoroughly enjoy it here. It may be the freedom of simply walking out of my door, into the fields. Or the cacophony of the birds, whose names I still don’t know. Their volume overrules the sounds of the roaring highway just behind us. Or perhaps it’s the red sun that is now at about 10° above the horizon, shining in my face as if to tell me to take off my new hat for it. Or maybe it’s the fact that I am sure that one day, when my grandpa felt like taking a detour, he crossed this little bridge here, in the middle of what was nowhere at the time, just for his enjoyment. Or the reflecting shadows of the water’s wrinkles on the moving straw, which combined mesmerize me into dreams. I’m amidst serene tumult.

That’s not to say that while I walk along the little path here, away from the deafening noise, my soul transcends along with the millions of glimmering dewdrops, slowly releasing themselves from the young blades of grass around. Or actually it is, now that I imagine it to. I’m liberated, even from myself. Especially from myself. Even if just for a little bit of time.

My grandpa was a kind, calm man when I knew him. His white hair surrounding his bald crown was long enough to be combed back. That looked pretty cool. So did the loose skin of his big thin hands, with thick blue veins meandering over them. I remember him sitting back on his couch, circling his thumbs around each other. He must have been furling his inner disagreements there. His lost memories. His missed chances. His incapacities. But I did not see that then. I was fascinated and he smiled gently. He always served us with chocolate, slices of sausage and other snacks. He limped a bit, when walking to the kitchen. His hip had been replaced.

Neither he nor I spoke much in company. What we would do, is hold each other’s gaze for a while. It told me I was his grandson, and that words aren’t always necessary to know you have a connection with someone. Still, I am not under the impression that I knew my grandpa that well. We lived about 400 km away from each other. Visiting them meant travelling hours and hours in the car. We slept there occasionally as kids, me and my sister, but most of what I remember from him were grownup visits where we did grownup things such as sitting at a table and eating and drinking. Though he did teach me how to play chess.

Once, he took me on a bikeride through these lands. I was a kid. Eight maybe? It was flat. And long. Kids from Luxembourg aren’t used to long bikerides. I think this one took several hours. I do remember enjoying following him on the bike, and stopping to have a chat once in a while, but there’s one memory that stands out. Somewhere near the end of the trip, he told me something about a bird around. My response? “I’m not very interested in that”. I possibly had to pee, or was tired, or was saturated with information. Maybe I was looking forward to a chocolate milk he promised me somewhere at the end of the road. I don’t remember his reaction, but today, a part of me feels guilty about it. Anyhow, years later, my grandparents were surprised to learn that I was going to study biology. And when it comes to bird species, they were right: I still don’t know that much about them.

“Grutto!” yells one of them from quite close. Hey. I can tell it’s panicking because of me. It probably has a nest. More interesting: I suddenly understand why it’s called Grutto in Dutch. I never knew, nor have I ever heard it that clearly. Was it trying to teach me his name?

When I visited my grandma after his death, I felt drawn by my grandpa’s encyclopedia. I walked there, took one of the 20 books of the shelve, opened it, and picked a random word. It was ‘dode hand’ (‘dead hand’). I had never heard of that word. It read something like this: “The dead hand is the property of the Church that is not inheritable by non-church members”. I was certain this was a message, related to him.

Moving to the Netherlands, and particularly Amsterdam was a personal declaration to look for my roots. My ancestor’s history. Figure out my family’s lives. In the meanwhile I have learned a bit about life in the city, before the war, during and afterwards. Things have changed quite radically. The past is gone, yet with a little bit of conversation and imagination, you can summon a vivid reconstruction of how life used to be. Walking in these wetlands is a similar attempt to reconstruct a forgotten past. Untangle a life of people who mattered little, yet stream forward in history through the very blood that rushes by my pen. Even if just for this moment, they are my entire world.

My grandpa grew up as a farmer, but through hard work became a manager in a company. He was the last one in my family lines to make that choice. Independence from the land. There were stories around him. Dreams. Meetings with deceased spirits. Predictions. At some point he developed automatic writing. He explained he would just lay down his hand with a pen in it, and then letters would shape themselves. Words, sentences, and new meaning would arrive without his conscious interference. He thought it was the input of a spirit, or a higher power. He once wrote something like: “Hendrik”, that was his name, “watch out what you do with your life”. He had a moterbike accident the next day.

Much has changed. Biodiversity dropped over here, electricity poles were built, the land is slowly being invaded by the ever growing civilization. Landprizes here have skyrocketed, and the farmers are slowly being replaced by rich people with big cars who spend the final decades of their life in retreat. Most I meet jog. They catch up with the sweat they failed to let to the land. I picture ghosts, hovering ahead of them, drawing them forward towards… what? What is it I am looking for? Which ghost precedes my steps? The tiny asphalt road bounces up and down when joggers come by. It is laid out over what used to be swamp. Utterly unreachable to man. But the Dutch built dykes. We showed them.

People would visit him to receive messages, until it suddenly stopped for ever. His explanation for the loss of his gift was that his ego started interfering. But by then he had already written what has always interested me most: a few pages in Latin. He did not know Latin. In an attempt to translate it, he discovered the text was about the evolution of the soul. That we all make steps forward, and then go back, and that we are all part of a slowly evolving collective consiousness, floating among us in the aether. That what we think of as our own awareness is merely a part of that bigger whole. A befriended priest offered to translate the manuscript for him. My grandpa gave him the papers, but never got them back.

After the incident with the encyclopedia, I’ve enjoyed imagining that those handwritings of my grandpa are still hidden in an occult library of some church in these lands. That they were in fact breathed into this world by some divinity or local spirit. That there is a holy grail somewhere, linking me back to something bigger and more meaningful. A unique message that would consolidate my spiritual quest and reveal the limits of the mechanistic paradigm. A proof. That the church was always aware that there’s more going on there, but that they shield us from it, because they want to remain in power.

The truth is that this fantasy inside me is slowly being overgrown by a sense that spirits in the west are dead, the document has disappeared and I’m perfectly fine without both. The transmission of lore is now all around us with the internet, and the format of film and imagery has made it more effective than ever. Oculus rift and hololenses are already catching up with our dreams. We are slowly immersing ourselves in representations that seem so real that it will be harder and harder to tell the difference. As opposed to believing in ghosts of the ancestors, which people all over the world have done for as long as they existed.

But what of reality? What is reality? Was the text of the manuscript really written in meaningful Latin? Or was my grandpa’s mind playing creative tricks on him? Did he, without knowing, gather some of his little knowledge on the language to create a sloppy text, imagining it was given to him? Did the priest simply forget it, given its insignificance? If so, what of the striking double, even triple meaning of the word ‘dead hand’? Was it a remnant spirit of the past, guiding me there, or was it just a lucky hit, short circuiting my sense of what is real? If it was true, am I making his same mistake by publically writing about it?

The grave has no answers. It is static, grey and silent. Both names are on it. There are freshly cut tulips here as well. White with red ones. Who put them here? A distant cousin? My uncle or aunt? Great unlce? I haven’t been in touch. And these grape hyacinths in the pot? How long have they been around? Did my grandma choose them? I vaguely remember them having these in the garden. I wipe some of the dead blossom of the smooth stone and have another look. A drawing of a hawk. Our name.

They are dead and I’m alive. There’s a world of difference between us. A world the nature of which I have never been certain of. Perhaps I’m here to remind myself that even if I do not know, I can still surrender to the stories. Accept them, like I would accept a film. I can dream a new truth. Revive the dead by recounting them. Let them live through me. How could I forget? How did I forget? Did I forget?

Am I here to accept that my own spiritual connection with nature was harmed with my grandpa’s choice to abandon the land? That in reality, I was always more interested in comfort, computer games and films, and that this was already written in the stars when I was born? That I am here to let go of these roots, and set the next step forward, into a virtual world of engineered redemption? Am I here to accept that humans will keep conquering these lands until even the tiniest patch is rid of its diversity, then recreate it in a different, imaginary world? Will there be life in that world?

No. This is not an end. There is no conclusion here. We can always go back. We can still go back. Nature can teach us. Nature will teach us. This is merely a meeting of life with death. Mysterious.

I don’t stay long, why would I? To find peace? I have more to do today. I’m a city boy now, living a civilized life in the great metropole that watched over us for generations. They are dead now, their memories gone. There is no reconciliation. The bird has flown.

There’s only one bus here per hour. Turns out I don’t have to wait long. No chance to go back. What would I expect to see anyway? In the shimmer of death, it’s still life that matters most. I’ll be back one day.

Subsyruped

There’s another emotion I’d like to describe, but don’t know a name for. At the time I am writing this down, I haven’t found the right word yet, so I’m going to try to squeeze it out by writing this text. Surround it. Catch it. Become it. Look at it from a distance. As if some part of my mind yet has to travel to that point, a light perhaps, where it has crystallized.

It’s a high tension emotion which, in my case, only arises from the interaction with another human. An interaction with high charge. The emotion comes afterwards, when, in an upcomming surge, the conversation starts playing back inside my head. When it rises in between me and my thoughts, hijacks them and blinds me from what’s happening around.

There are three clear moments when this can happen in my case: after an argument or a fight, when I have a crush on someone, and as occurred recently, when I have a job interview. There’s always a question involved. A fight can leave me puzzled about the question ‘who is right?’. The anger fuels this, and causes me not to think clearly. In the turbulence, I construct a frame of thoughts that makes me right, and makes me feel better about myself. Then I start wondering how I can relate back to the other person. Solve it. All that time, I’m dominated by this same emotion.  Having a crush is similar, but the life-dependent question there is: “does she like me back?”. Whatever that may mean. Very important, obviously, so there come the thoughts that interpret the conversation during the recent date in my favour, and there goes the focus on anything else. Job interviews, might objectively have an impact on my life, but they trigger the same mechanism. Did I say this right? Was I spontaneous enough? Should I have added more information here? Was I too quick? To jovial? Still didn’t hear if they hired me, by the way, but the emotion has faded by now.

What I want to describe, find a word for, is the gooey structure of this emotion, which I notice if I want to break it. For example, when I want to get to work. It’s so viscous, that when I arrive at a point where I can concentrate, it undermines that, lurking me back into its useless rambling. And particularly when I fight it, it can cause electric bursts of panic in my heart or shoulder, or right under my belly button. But surrendering to it doesn’t release its grip either: it fuels it. Regardless of how I relate to it, it passes with time. As a falling tide.

It’s a bit like being submerged by a flood of mental syrup, really. My functional mind moves slowly and with a lot for force, working itself into being stuck in a new position. There seems to be a lot going on, but in fact I’m stuck in a sticky cloud of anxieties. Think I’ll call it subsyrupism. As in, “I’m feeling very subsyruped” today. Or: “she can’t hear you, she’s subsyruped.”  Yes, that works. Good. Subsyruped it is.

A rich man´s pastime

‘Crack!’ The sound of the breaking tooth resounds in my skull. It doesn’t hurt because of the anaesthesia, but I do feel exactly what she’s doing. The sensation of the wisdom tooth removal reminds me of a dream I once had, in which all my teeth scattered in my mouth.

As I recently earned a bit of money and thought it would be wise to invest it in something useful, I got myself a dentist. My previous visit was over 5 years ago. My new dentist is a very attractive blonde woman in her thirties with big bright blue eyes. I have the luck to stare into those while she is digging into my mouth. It’s unfortunate that visiting her costs about a hundred euros per half hour.

I do not particularly like dentists. Next to the fact that they perform the best earning profession in the Netherlands, it is their job to judge your mouth without knowing you, and to present you a highly expensive improvement plan, which you basically have to agree with, because they are the experts, and what do you know about the teeth you have lived with your entire life? Besides, they confront you with the fact that you’re getting older and start falling apart. And if you haven’t really been able to afford a dentist for a while, your teeth are not your strongest pride. I only had a small bleeding under my wisdom tooth and some plaque, but that lady who was otherwise quite sympathtic managed to make me feel bad about myself within the twenty minutes I had (even if I had no cavities, or serious issues). Then she expeced me to pay two months’ rent for a cleaning progam she prescribed. Very confusing.

Are dentists a vital human need, or a luxury? Nowadays, if we see a person who lacks teeth, we consider this person dirty. Judging people by their teeth has become normal. The truth probably is that this person cannot afford going to the dentist. Perhaps it’s not always the case, but without a regular cleanup by a professional, it seems that our teeth would fall out when we are a few decades old. Old people in third world countries seldom have all of their teeth, just like elderly people who live on the streets in cities. A natural part of life, it seems. Then again, animals who lose their teeth usually simply die. End of story. That’s not what we want.

Okay, so let’s assume teeth are not a luxury issue, but a basic human need. Then why are dentists so incredibly well paid? Why is it so hard for some people to afford it? And why do we frown upon those who didn’t manage to keep up? We are taking this one for granted. Is that also what is going to happen with plastic chirurgy? Nowadays, you are allowed to have wrinkles, hanging boobs or a bold head. Will those slowly turn into signs of self-neglect? Will they represent the poor, uncivilized layers of society? I suppose it will probably take a number of decades before the masses truly tip on this one, but high society is well on its way with rebuilding their bodies in to those of adolescents. After all, being young sells better than being old, does it not?

It appears that dreaming of losing your teeth, your fangs, has something to do with the fear of losing power. Vitality. The fear of getting old. The dream was long ago, but the memory is right here. Indeed, I’m bolding, indeed my skin is not as supple as it was, and yes, my teeth are not as white as they used to be. I guess physical growth is over, it’ll be maintenance from now on. And apparently I’m not the only one who cultivates such lingering anxieties.

After half an hour, when I’m allowed to remove the cloth from my mouth, I taste something familiar. Walking through the Jordaan, it takes a while before I realise what I know it from. It’s the same taste I got after losing my baby teeth as a kid. This was perhaps the last time I savoured it.

Unicorns aren’t dead

If you met a unicorn, would you take a picture of it, or would watch it for as long as it stayed, then let it leave you with nothing but a memory? Would you close your eyes?

The first specimen of the unicorn was spotted in India, millennia before Christ. It has reappeared many times since, as described by numerous religions. Unicorns are white, four-legged, large mammals who supposedly dwell in dense forests, where they are accompanied by a sprinkly melody. They look like white horses with a single horn pointing out of their forehead, which serves for non-violent communication only. A unicorn can be caught solely by virgins and North Korean emperors. Throughout the years, it has embodied purity, innocence, enchantment, and all their opposites. A bit like the colour pink, in fact.

When Nietzsche said “God is dead”, he did not mention unicorns, who supposedly remain alive untill further notice. This is visible in the three Western subcultures which are currently most concerned with the unicorn.

The first and most prominent unicorn-concerned subculture is that of the little and not-so-little unicorn girls. They revere a kind of unicorn that looks like a new version of My Little Pony,  This unicorn commonly dances on a rainbow, bathes in it or takes a bite out of it. Oh, don’t worry, it’ll grow back. Girls in this group regularly post unicorn related content on Facebook, along with some fairy dust. This way, they reveal how magical their lives are.

Then there is the equally notable subculture of the proud unicorn spotters. These are the people (or the state in the case of North Korea) that announce they have captured a unicorn in the wild, and post their proof online. It could be a shaky YouTube video, a blurry picture or, in the case of North Korea, archaeological evidence. They usually fuel an online debate on whether the interpretation of their proof is accurate or not. This group is generally not concerned with unicorns alone: they’d capture multiple kinds of mythological creatures and a UFO or two if they get the chance. Behaviour or ecology of these creatures do not matter much to them, nor the types of rainbows they come along with. All they need is the documentation.

Thirdly, there is the group of atheists who say they believe in the unicorn (sometimes pink…) as a metaphor to rhetorically prove to religious people that God doesn’t exist. That could sound like this: “Hey religious guy! Do you think unicorns exist?” “No, dear atheist man” “Why, not?” “Because nobody ever saw one.” “Well, religious guy, that’s why I don’t think God exists.” The internet examples where the unicorn is brought forward as the terminator of God are endless.

What does the prevalence of the unicorn in an otherwise secularising global society mean? For one thing, I think it is an indication that the appreciation of the supernatural is still alive among us. It even gives atheists a smile on their face. Are we guarding our mental state of the child’s fantasy, perhaps? Silently protecting the thought that there may yet be something more? Luckily that hasn’t died.

Slippery Ice

The war is on.
They have taken Brussels.

Isn´t that a thrilling opening of a text on a contemporary issue? I think so.

I remember screaming “No War in my Name!” on a massive march of the Luxembourg city schools towards the American embassy, back in 2003. The Bush government had just played the Saddam Houssain card, after ‘Al Qaeda’ and ‘weapons of mass destruction’ had failed to convince the European leaders to join the war on terrorism. I had to pass by the nurse to get a throat pastil the next day. And it worked: France and Luxembourg didn’t join. England did. Houssain was, after all, a badass motherfucker, and he had to be burned out of his hole.

After my first long hitchhiking trip in summer 2004, I was waiting for my train back home in the Gare du Nord in Paris. France had by then let itself be persuaded to join the fights in Afghanistan. The speakers called upon the owner of an abandoned backpack, ordaining to come and pick it up. It repeated the call after a minute. Two minutes more and a special police unit entered the station. They cleared the area with red-white ribbon, and blew up the backpack. I laughed out loud. Earlier that month a driver had told me that some tourists had lost their passports in such an explosion. Precautionary measures after an earlier attack somewhere around.

It’s 2015 now. Europe is still bombing North Africa, and a small group of marginalized Arabs is still giving their lives to end it. Meanwhile, some say that Europe cracks by the thirst for power of old rivals, new members and the descendents of the ancient philosophers of our civilization. Refugees couldn’t cause the closing of the borders, but now, a handful of delinquents can. As if someone wanted this to happen.

I think fear is an excuse. Something people hold up in order to justify their thrill. The events in Paris and their out-of-proportion political response have kept the continent occupied for over a week. Code four in Brussels is the first news topic of all European newspapers. Second, third and fourth remain info on the victims, witness reports and head hunts… We can follow the latest events on live blogs and join the discussion on whether we should keep having fun or start taking terrorism seriously.

The constant becalming of our desires has numbed us. We have been able to buy off our troubles, put a stamp on them, and send them to countries all over the world. Our lives have become boring, so we seek excitement. We click and scroll, compelled by sensation that both hides as well as reveals a bloody debt of Western society at large. It is not about the victims, it never was, we are merely consuming the latest adventure, following the same brainless urge these terrorists feebly attempted to wake us from. Meanwhile, our leaders, perhaps driven by a similar thrills, temporarily pass through a number of police state measures, silently acquainting the mass with a new, safe societal equilibrium. It never hurt to show some strength.

We have lived a youth where war on our grounds seemed impossible. I’m starting to doubt it now. Not because of some angry Arabs, but because of the eagerness with which my people seem to see it happen. Or maybe that´s my thrill. I wish I could still say this war wasn´t in my name.

The good, the bad and the energy

Let´s talk about energy for a bit. I mean the cultural phenomenon, the modern version of aether. In particular the concept of positive energy versus negative energy. And I mean it in contexts such as: ´this guy has such negative energy´, or ‘wow, you can really feel the positive energy here’. I have a bit of an objection against this distinction, particularly the negative pole, because it legitimizes judgmental beliefs. I think it motivates people to believe in their own projections, and by that stimulates the construction of their own mental cage.

The reason why I bring this up, is that the belief in spiritual energy is often seen as an emancipation from the religious dogmatic thought. Heaven and hell are let go because they are seen as a design to blind us from the truth. But if that truth is that you should follow positive energy and avoid negative energy so that you can reach nirvana and leave this semi-damned existence, then I don´t think much as changed.

What would you think if I told you that there is positive fire and negative fire? Good water and bad water? Sacred air and evil air? Perhaps you´d laugh, or perhaps you´d think I mean the level of pollution of a pond or a city street. Or maybe you´d say that it all depends on the intensity of these elements. Their pressure. I don´t think you would think that I mean that those elements are somehow negative.

Okay, so what if we assume that people who talk about negative energy mean to say that the energy is polluted? In many cases they probably do. My question would be: what is the energy polluted with?

It is an important one to answer, I think, because we´re talking about a medium here that, in my view, is easily coloured by our thoughts and emotions. That´s how a stressed person causes an emotional sandstorm just by walking into a room with people, or how a little kid can fill the hearts of many with delight. You would have to be quite trained or at least very sensitive to distinguish the level of pollutedness of the energy from the impact of your own emotionally charged perception on that energy.

I think that most often when people get negative vibes from someone, what they actually perceive is an incompatibility of their emotions with those of another person. I would explain this by differences in energy pressure. When an active person meets someone who´s tired for example, it can be quite irritating for both. That doesn´t mean that either one has negative energy. With a bit of willpower from both ends, such pressure differences can be easily overcome.

Energy could also be perceived as negative when it triggers a fear or discomfort. In my case that´s most often the fear of the unknown or the fear of being manipulated. It could also be the fear of not being accepted or the fear of pain or death. But being afraid of something doesn´t mean that this thing is harmful to you. And even if it is, harm will be healed.

What I guess I want to say is that classifying aspects of life as negative immediately makes you miss out. It is closing your own doors to life. I do believe that real, deep experiences of energy can be an intimate, revelatory thing with potential to give direction to life. By all means, attend to them as they come.

On Reincarnation

People usually assume that I believe in reincarnation. I don’t. I believe reincarnation is a hopeful thought that propagates itself through the noosphere, fuelled by the fear of disappearance of whatever people believe to be themselves.

Reincarnation presumes incarnation and excarnation of an individual spirit in a body. To me, there’s no sharp separation between the two. That is not to say that I don’t believe in ghosts, past life memories, visions of the future or out-of-body experiences, but I interpret them differently. My outlook on space, time and life differ, I believe, from the status quo of, let’s call it Western Reincarnation Theory. I think it’s an interesting topic, so I’ll try to explain my point of view here, starting with some examples.

Let’s start with ghosts, they’re one of the trickiest subjects. Haunted houses, dead people walking or even just the feeling that something heavy is trying to tell you something, but you can’t quite catch what it is. Some perceive it, others don’t. To me, ghosts are a charge, released by a living person during their lifetime. It can be mental, emotional or spiritual, so let’s just call it a psychosomatic charge. Imagine Lonely Jack, who constantly sits in his living room, complaining to himself about the woman he never had, the job he missed and the choices he never made. I believe this guy can leave a footprint on his living room for as long as he’s alive. Then, once he’s dead, new inhabitants could still perceive this footprint as a ghost.

Would that footprint be self-conscious? One might ask. My answer would be: only to the extent to which the complaining is self-conscious, which is not that much at all. I don’t believe that the charge is Lonely Jack himself, I’d say it’s what he’s left behind. Then again, I do believe it is possible to send extracts of awareness into, for example, the furniture we possess, and make it look back at you. Or at another, when you’re not around. We can charge our surroundings with thoughts the way our surroundings can charge us with thoughts. Thus, some parts of us can live on. If others interact with those they empower them, and the bits of us empower those who interact.

Another typical proof for reincarnation and the separation between body and soul is the memory of past lives. The reasoning: since I experienced being in the past, apparently “I” have lived past lives. I value the occurrence of such experiences, but they don’t necessarily point to reincarnation. I see them as bridges between eras. Between lives if you will. Like meeting someone in the tram, but different. Sometimes, psychosomatic charges find their way through “wormholes” in such a strength that they invoke the “I” sensation upon the perceiver. To me, they really are just messages from the past with relevance for the listener of today. Think about it this way: you were a different person as a kid, but the aspect of “I” hasn’t changed. Ask the oldest person you know about this, and he or she will tell you there’s no difference between being old and being young. Nevertheless, all molecules have alternated time after time, lessons have been learned and forgotten, and the body has evolved and worn out. Throughout a single lifetime, we are many different people, but we don’t perceive it that way. Then why is it so hard to believe that temporarily being a different person would feel differently than being yourself?

The topic of future visions is similar. I believe that the general consensus there is that they are impossible, yet if they occur, they pass through the spirit world , mediated by beings who reside there because they have reincarnated many times. I believe the moment or vision that is foreseen is simply very psychosomatically charged, and therefore radiates back in time. Perhaps the meaning gives the charge, and the need for meaning on the other side the attraction. Metaphysical pressure differences, so to speak.

Out of body experiences? To me they are instants of high psychosomatic charge in the body, where the mind bridges space in the same way as it could bridge time. The fact that the people see and hear things in this different space, I believe, is a way for the mind to accommodate itself when away from the body. But I still think the phenomenon is powered by the life force inside the body of the one who perceives it as “him or herself being out of his or her body”.

So, if not in life after death, what do I believe in? I believe that there’s only one core soul, which is hidden deep inside all of us. Time, space and basically all rules an limits we take for granted are expressions of that soul. I think it created them all for fun. So are our bodies. Without our bodies, we would just be that one soul, undivided and forever, free from the illusions of existence we’ve created all around us. We are borrowing our bodies, our spirits and our minds from this big shared illusion, and when we die we give what we borrowed back.

Don’t ask me how that would feel by the way, I wouldn’t know.